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LESSON 2854 Thu 27 Dec 2018

Do Good Be Mindful  -  Awakened One with Awareness (AOA)
Assignment - Diploma in Buddhist Studies (DTBS)

10. List and explain kamavacara sobnakusala citta (10M)
11. List and explain kamavacara sobana vipaka citta (10 M)
13. List and explain kamavacara sobana kiria citta (10M)
14. List and explain Rupavacara kusala citta (10 M)
15. List and explain Rupavacara vipaka citta (10 M)

10. List and explain kamavacara sobna kusala citta (10M)

11. List and explain kamavacara sobana vipaka citta (10 M)
7:12 / 38:22
3c. THE 89 KINDS OF CITTA (Consciousness)

Published on Oct 17, 2017

Jones guides the dhamma class through the system of classification of
Cittas (Consciousness) into 89 different kinds, according to its most
prominent root.
The roots are Greed (Lobha), Hatred (Dosa,) and Ignorance / Delusion
(Moha) which are further classified by feeling tones (Vedana). There are
also variations according to its association with wrong view or whether
or not the Citta is prompted or spontaneous.
Recorded at The London Buddhist Vihara on Thursday 12th October 2017.
. . . . . . . . .
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13. List and explain kamavacara sobana kiria citta (10M)

a lotus
flower grows in the murky water, it breaks
the surface and fragrantly blooms. Thus the wise are born in worldly
society yet
they rise above it and realize Nibbana - The Buddha. 
Be a Lotus Flower, follow The
Buddha’s Five Precepts
and Eightfold Path. 

bo leaf ආගමික වේලාව


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14. List and explain Rupavacara kusala citta (10 M)

Abhidhamma - Rupa Vacara Citta - April, 20, 2014

Published on Jul 1, 2014

by U Garudhamma



(rϊpαvacara cittαni-15)


(rϊpαvacara kusala cittani-5)


1. Vitakka-vicαra-pνti-sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam

2. Vicαra-pνti-sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam

3. Pνti-sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam tatiyajjhαna-kusalacittam,

4. Sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam catutthajjhαna-kusalacittam,

5. Upekkh’ekaggatα-sahitam paρcamajjhαna-kusalacittaρ

Imαni paρca’pi rϊpαvacara-kusalacittαninαma.


(rϊpαvacara vipαka cittαni-5)


1. Vitakka-vicαra-pνti-sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam

2. Vicαra-pνti-sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam

3. Pνti-sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam tatiyajjhαna-vipαkacittam,

4. Sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam, catutthajjhαna-vipαkacittam,

5. Upekkh’ekaggatα-sahitam paρcamajjhαna-vipαkacittaρ

Imαni paρca’pi rϊpαvacara-vipαkacittαni nαma.


(rϊpαvacara kriyα cittαni-5)


1. Vitakka-vicαra-pνti-sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam

2. Vicαra-pνti-sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam

3. Pνti-sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam tatiyajjhαna-kriyαcittam,

4. Sukh’ekaggatα-sahitam catutthajjhαna-kriyαcittam,

5. Upekkh’ekaggatα-sahitam paρcamajjhαna-kriyαcittaρ

Imαni paρca’pi rϊpαvacara-kriyαcittαni nαma.

Icc’evam sabbathα’pi pannarasa rϊpαvacara
kusala-vipαka-kriyαcittαni samattαni.


Paρcadhα jhαnabhedena - rϊpαvacaramαnasam

Puρρapαkakriyαbhedα - tam paρcadasadhα bhave.



§ 7.



(Form-Sphere Consciousness - 15)


(Form-Sphere Moral Consciousness - 5)


1. First Jhαna moral consciousness together with initial
application, sustained application, joy, happiness, and one-pointedness.

2. Second Jhαna moral consciousness together with sustained
application, joy, happiness, and one-pointedness,

3. Third Jhαna moral consciousness together with joy,
happiness, and one-pointedness,

4. Fourth Jhαna moral consciousness together with happiness
and one-pointedness.

5. Fifth Jhαna moral consciousness together with equanimity
and one-pointedness.

These are the five types of Form-Sphere Moral consciousness.



(Form-Sphere Resultant Consciousness - 5)


1. First Jhαna Resultant consciousness together with
initial application, sustained application, joy, happiness, and

2. Second Jhαna Resultant consciousness together with
sustained application, joy, happiness, and one-pointedness,

3. Third Jhαna Resultant consciousness together with joy,
happiness, and one-pointedness,

4. Fourth Jhαna Resultant consciousness together with
happiness and one-pointedness,

5. Fifth Jhαna Resultant consciousness together with
equanimity and one-pointedness.

These are the five types of Jhαna Resultant consciousness.


(Form-Sphere Functional Consciousness-5)


1. First Jhαna Functional consciousness together with
initial application, sustained application, joy, happiness and

2. Second Jhαna Functional consciousness together with
sustained application, joy, happiness, and one-pointedness,

3. Third Jhαna Functional consciousness together with joy,
happiness, and one-pointedness,

4. Fourth Jhαna Functional consciousness together with
happiness and one-pointedness.

5. Fifth Jhαna Functional consciousness together with
equanimity and one-pointedness.

These are the five types of Form-Sphere Functional


Thus end, in all, the fifteen types of Form-Sphere Moral
Resultant, and Functional consciousness.




Form-Sphere consciousness is fivefold according to different
Jhαnas. That becomes fifteen fold according to Moral, Resultant and Functional




36. Rϊpαvacara-

There are three planes of existence-namely, Sensuous Sphere
(kαmaloka), Form-Sphere (rϊpaloka), and Formless-Sphere
(arϊpaloka). The four states of misery (apαya), human realm
(manussa), and the six celestial realms (devaloka) constitute the
kαmaloka. It is so called because sense-desires play a predominant part
in this sphere. The four states of misery are called duggati (evil
states). Evil-doers are born in such states. The remaining seven are called
sugati (good states). The good are born in these states of sensuous

The more evolved persons, who seek no delight in ordinary
sense-desires, but are interested in higher spiritual progress, must naturally
be born in congenial places in harmony with their lofty aspirations. Even in the
human realm it is they who retire to solitude and engage themselves in

Such meditation (bhαvanα) is of two kinds -
samatha (concentration) and vipassanα (insight). Samatha,
which means calm, or tranquillity is gained by developing the Jhαnas.
Vipassanα is seeing things as they truly are. With the aid of Jhαnas one
could develop higher psychic powers (abhiρρα). It is vipassanα
that leads to Enlightenment.

Those who develop Jhαnas are born after death in higher
Form-Spheres (rϊpaloka) and Formless-spheres (arϊpaloka).

In the Formless-Spheres there is no body but only mind. As a
rule, both mind and body are interrelated, interdependent, and inseparable. But
by will-power there is a possibility for the mind to be separated from the body
and vice versa temporarily. Beings born in celestial realms and Form-Spheres are
supposed to posses very subtle material forms.

The Compendium of Philosophy states that “Rϊpaloka is so
called because the subtle residuum of matter is said, in that place of
existence, to be still met with. Arϊpaloka is so called because no trace of
matter is held to be found in it”.

That which frequents the Rϊpa-Sphere is
rϊpαvacara. There are fifteen cittas pertaining to it. Five are
kusalas, which one can develop in this life itself. Five are their
corresponding vipαkas which are experienced after death in the
Rϊpa-sphere. Five are kriyα cittas, which are experienced only by
Buddhas and Arahats either in this life or by Arahats in the Rϊpa-Sphere.


37. Jhαna - Sanskrit dhyαna-

The Pαli term is derived from the root “jhe”, to think.
Venerable Buddhaghosa explains Jhαna as follows, “Aramman’upanijjhαnato
paccanνkajhαpanato vajhanam”,
Jhαna is so called because it thinks closely
of an object or because it burns those adverse things (hindrances -

By Jhαna is meant willful concentration on an object.

Of the forty objects of concentration, enumerated in the 9th
chapter of this book, the aspirant selects an object that appeals most to his
temperament. This object is called parikamma nimitta - preliminary

He now intently concentrates on this object until he becomes so
wholly absorbed in it that all adventitious thoughts get ipso facto
excluded from the mind. A stage is ultimately reached when he is able to
visualize the object even with closed eyes. On this visualized image (uggaha
he concentrates continuously until it develops into a
conceptualized image (patibhαga nimitta).


As an illustration let us take the pathavν kasina.

A circle of about one span and four inches in diameter is made
and the surface is covered with dawn-colored clay and smoothed well. If there be
not enough clay of the dawn color, he may put in some other kind of clay
beneath. This hypnotic circle is known as the parikamma nimitta. Now he
places this object about two and half cubits away from him and concentrates on
it, saying mentally or inaudibly - pathavν or earth. The purpose is to
gain the one-pointedness of the mind. When he does this for some time - perhaps
weeks, or months, or years - he would be able to close his eyes and visualize
the object. This visualized object is called uggaha nimitta. Then he
concentrates on this visualized image, which is an exact mental replica of the
object, until it develops into a conceptualized image which is called
patibhαga nimitta.

The difference between the first visualized image and the
conceptualized image is that in the former the fault of the device appears,
while the latter is clear of all such defects and is like a “well-burnished
conchshell”. The latter possesses neither color nor form. “It is just a mode of
appearance, and is born of perception”.

As he continually concentrates on this abstract concept he is
said to be in possession of “proximate concentration” (upacαra samαdhi)
and the innate five Hindrances to progress (nνvarana), such as
sense-desire (kαmacchanda), hatred (patigha), sloth and torpor
(thνna-middha), restlessness and brooding (uddhacca-kukkucca), and
doubts (vicikicchα) are temporarily inhibited.


Eventually he gains “ecstatic concentration” (appanα
and becomes enwrapped in Jhαna, enjoying the calmness and serenity
of a one-pointed mind.

As he is about to gain appanα samαdhi a thought process
runs as follows:- bhavanga, mano-dvαrαvajjana, parikamma, upacαra, anuloma,
gotrabhϊ, appanα.


When the stream of consciousness is arrested, there arises the
Mind-door consciousness taking for its object the patibhαga nimitta. This
is followed by the Javana process which, as the case may be, starts with either
parikamma or upacαra. Parikamma is the preliminary or
initial thought-moment. Upacαra means proximate, because it is close to
the appanα samαdhi. It is at the anuloma or “adaptation”
thought-moment that the mind qualifies itself for the final appanα. It is
so called because it arises in conformity with appanα. This is followed
by gotrabhϊ, the thought-moment that transcends the kαma-plane.
Gotrabhϊ means that which subdues (bhϊ) the Kαma-lineage
(gotra). All the thought-moments of this Javana process up to the
gotrabhϊ moment are kαmαvacara thoughts. Immediately after this
transitional stage of gotrabhϊ there arises only for a duration of one
moment the appanα thought-moment that leads to ecstatic concentration.
This consciousness belongs to the Rϊpa-plane, and is termed the First
Rϊpa Jhαna. In the case of an Arahat it is a kriyα citta,
otherwise it is a kusala.


This consciousness lasts for one thought-moment and then
subsides into the Bhavanga state.

The aspirant continues his concentration and develops in the
foregoing manner the second, third, fourth, and fifth Jhαnas.

The five Jhαna vipαkas are the corresponding Resultants
of the five Morals. They are experienced in the Form sphere itself and not in
the Kαma-sphere. Kusala and Kiriyα Jhαnas could be
experienced in the Kαma-sphere continuously even for a whole day.


The five factors, vitakka, vicαra, pνti, sukha, ekaggatα
collectively found in the appanα consciousness, constitute what is
technically known as Jhαna. In the second Jhαna the first factor is eliminated,
in the third the first two are eliminated, in the fourth the first three are
eliminated, while in the fifth even happiness is abandoned and is substituted by

Sometimes these five Jhαnas are treated as four, as mentioned
in the Visuddhi-Magga. In that case the second Jhαna consists of three
constituents as both vitakka and vicαra are eliminated at once.



38. Vitakka - is derived from “vi” + Φ “takk” to think. Generally the term is used in the
sense of thinking or reflection. Here it is used in a technical sense. It is
that which directs the concomitant states towards the object. (αrammanam
vitakketi sampayuttadhamme abhiniropeti’ ti vitakko).
Just as a king’s
favourite would conduct a villager to the palace, even so vitakka directs
the mind towards the object.

Vitakka is an unmoral mental state which, when
associated with a kusala or akusala citta, becomes either moral or
immoral. A developed form of this vitakka is found in the first Jhαna
consciousness. A still more developed form of vitakka is found in the
Path-consciousness (magga citta) as sammα-sankappa (Right
thoughts). The vitakka of the Path-consciousness directs the mental
states towards Nibbαna and destroys micchα (wrong or evil) vitakka
such as thoughts of sense-desire (kαma), thoughts of hatred
(vyαpαda), and thoughts of cruelty (vihimsα). The vitakka
of the Jhαna consciousness temporarily inhibits sloth and torpor
(thνna-middha) one of the five Hindrances (nνvarana).

Through continued practice the second Jhαna is obtained by
eliminating vitakka. When four Jhαnas are taken into account instead of
the five, the second Jhαna is obtained by eliminating both vitakka and
vicαra at the same time.



39. Vicαra is derived from “vi” + “car” to
move or wander. Its usual equivalent is investigation. Here it is used in the
sense of sustained application of the mind on the object. It temporarily
inhibits doubts (vicikicchα).

According to the commentary vicαra is that which moves
around the object. Examination of the object is its characteristic.
Vitakka is like the flying of a bee towards a flower. Vicαra is
like its buzzing around it. As Jhαna factors they are correlates.



40. Pνti is zest, joy, or pleasurable interest. It is
derived from Φ “pi”, to please, to delight. It
is not a kind of feeling (vedanα) like sukha. It is, so to say,
its precursor. Like the first two Jhαna factors, (pνti) is also a mental
state found in both moral and immoral consciousness. Creating an interest in the
object is its characteristic pνti inhibits vyαpαda, ill-will or


There are five kinds of pνti:-


1. Khuddaka pνti, the thrill of joy that causes “the
flesh to creep”.

2. Khanika pνti, instantaneous joy like a flash of

3. Okkantika pνti, the flood of joy like the
breakers on a seashore.

4. Ubbega pνti, transporting joy which enables one
to float in the air just as a lump of cotton carried by the wind.

5. Pharana pνti, suffusing joy, which pervades the
whole body like a full blown bladder or like a flood that overflows small
tanks and ponds.


41. Sukha is bliss or happiness. It is a kind of
pleasant feeling. It is opposed to uddhacca and kukkucca
(restlessness and brooding). As vitakka is the precursor of
vicαra, so is pνti the precursor of sukha.

The enjoyment of the desired object is its characteristic. It
is like a king that enjoys a delicious dish.

Pνti creates an interest in the object, while
sukha enables one to enjoy the object.

Like the sight of an oasis to a weary traveler, is pνti.
Like drinking water and bathing therein, is sukha.

This mental sukha which should be differentiated from
ahetuka kαyika (physical) happiness is identical with somanassa.
But it is a joy disconnected with material pleasures. This pleasurable feeling
is the inevitable outcome of renouncing them (nirαmisa sukha). Nibbαnic
bliss is yet far more subtle than Jhαnic bliss. There is no feeling in
experiencing the bliss of Nibbαna. The total release from suffering
is itself Nibbαnic bliss. It is comparable to the “ease” of
an invalid who is perfectly cured of a disease. It is a bliss of relief.



42. Upekkhα - literally, means seeing (ikkhati)
impartially (upa = yuttito). It is viewing an object with a balanced
mind, Atthasαlini states: - “This is impartiality (majjhattam) in
connection with the object, and implies a discriminative knowledge
(paricchindanakam ραnam)”.


This explanation applies strictly to upekkhα found in
sobhana consciousness accompanied by wisdom. Upekkhα found in the
akusalas and ahetukas is just neutral feeling, without the least
trace of any discriminative knowledge. In the kαmαvacara sobhanas, too,
there may arise that neutral feeling, as in the case of one hearing the Dhamma
without any pleasurable interest, and also a subtle form of upekkhα that
views the object with deliberate impartiality and discriminative knowledge, as
in the case of a wise person who hears the Dhamma with a critical and impartial


Upekkhα of the Jhαna consciousness, in particular is of
ethical and psychological importance. It certainly is not the ordinary kind of
upekkhα, generally found in the akusala consciousness which comes
naturally to an evil-doer. The Jhαna upekkhα has been developed by a
strong will-power. Realizing that pleasurable feeling is also gross, the Yogi
eliminates it as he did the other three Jhαna factors, and develops the more
subtle and peaceful upekkhα. On the attainment of the fifth Jhαna
breathing ceases. As he has transcended both pain and pleasure by will-power, he
is immune to pain too.

This upekkhα is a highly refined form of the ordinary
tatramajjhattatα, even-mindedness, one of the moral mental states, latent
in all types of sobhana consciousness.


In the Pαli phrase - upekkhα satipαrisuddhi - purity of
mindfulness which comes of equanimity - it is the tatra-majjhattatα that
is referred to. This is latent in the first four Jhαnas too. In the fifth Jhαna
this tatra-majjhattatα is singled out and becomes highly refined. Both
neutral feeling upekkhα vedanα) and equanimity that correspond to the one
Pαli term upekkhα are found in the fifth Jhαna.


Thus there appear to be four kinds of upekkhα viz:- (1)
just neutral feeling, found in the six akusala cittas, (2) sensitive
passive neutral feeling (anubhavana upekkhα) found in the eight
ahetuka sense-door consciousness (dvipaρca-viρραna)
(excluding kαyaviρραna), (3) intellectual upekkhα, found
mostly in the two sobhana kriyα cittas, accompanied by knowledge, and
sometimes in the two sobhana kusala cittas, accompanied by knowledge, (4)
ethical upekkhα, found in all the sobhana cittas, especially in
the fifth Jhαna.


Brahmavihαrupekkhα and sankhαrupekkhα may be
included in both intellectual and ethical upekkhα.

The first is equanimity amidst all vicissitudes of life. The
second is neither attachment nor aversion with respect to all conditioned

Visuddhi-Magga enumerates ten kinds of upekkhα. See the
Path of Purity -Vol. II pp. 184-186.



43. Ekaggatα (eka + agga + tα) lit.,
one-pointedness. This is a mental state common to all Jhαnas. By sammα
(Right Concentration) is meant this ekaggatα found in the
Path-consciousness. Ekaggatα temporarily inhibits sensual desires.

15. List and explain Rupavacara vipaka citta (10 M)

Published on Sep 15, 2011
Felix Sim
Published on Sep 15, 2011
rupa materi in abhidhamma

rupa materi in abhidhamma
List and explain Rupavacara kusala citta (10 M)

List and explain Rupavacara kusala citta (10 M)
16. List and explain Rupavacara kiria citta (10 M)
17. List and explain Arupavacara kusala citta (10 M)

16. List and explain Rupavacara kiria citta (10 M)

17. List and explain Arupavacara kusala citta (10 M)

Arupavacara Citta; 1 Definition(s)

In Buddhism
Relevant definitions
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Arupavacara Citta means something in Buddhism, Pali. If you want to
know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of
this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment
or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary
In Buddhism

Part of Lokiya Cittas.

There are 12 arupavacara cittas. They can be divided into three groups according to their origin or jati. They are

4 arupakusala cittas,
4 arupavipaka cittas, and
4 arupakiriya cittas.

4 arupakusala cittas are cittas that arise when arupa jhana are being
practised. The practice of arupa jhana is bhavana kusala. So at the time
of arupa jhana, arupakusala cittas arise.
Where the practitioner is
an arahat, then the arising arupa jhana are called arupakiriya cittas.
Kiriya citta does not give rise to kammic force or seed effect. Kusala
citta gives vipaka or resultant cittas. The practice of arupa jhana may
give rise to rebirth in arupa brahma bhumi.
4 arupavipaka cittas are
resultant cittas due to respective arupakusala citta. These 4 cittas
arise only in arupa brahma. Because they all are patisandhi citta,
bhavanga citta, and cuti citta of arupa brahma. So they cannot arise in
other planes of existence.

These 12 cittas arise mostly in arupa
brahma bhumi. So they are called arupavacara cittas. Arupa here means
arupa brahma bhumi or arupa brahma realm or formless realm.
(Source): Journey to Nibbana: Patthana Dhama
Abhidhamma book cover
context information

Abhidhamma (अभिधम्म) usually refers to the last section (piṭaka) of the
Pali canon and includes schematic classifications of scholastic
literature dealing with Theravāda Buddhism. Primary topics include
psychology, philosophy, methodology and metaphysics which are rendered
into exhaustive enumerations and commentaries.

Discover the meaning of arupavacara citta in the context of Abhidhamma from relevant books on Exotic India
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Citta Citta (चित्त, “mind”) or Cittavaśitā refers to the “mastery of mind” and represents one of the …
Arupavacara arūpāvacara : (adj.) belonging to the realm of arūpins.
Cittanupassana Cittānupassanā:—the critique of heart, adj. °ânupassin D.II, 299; III, 221, 281; …
Bodhicitta Bodhichitta Skt., lit., “awakened mind”; the mind of enlightenment, one of the central no&sh…
Cittagara Cittāgāra—a painted house, i.e. furnished with pictures; a picture gallery Vin.IV, 29…
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Cittapatta Cittapatta—(adj.) having variegated wings J.VI, 540, 590;
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Cittakathika Cittakathika—=°kathin A.I, 24; Th.2, 449 (+bahussuta), expld at ThA.281 by cittad…
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of Lokiya Cittas. There are 12 arupavacara cittas. They can be divided
into three groups according to their origin or jati. They are 4

List and explain Rupavacara kiria citta (10 M)

18. List and explain Arupavacara vipaka citta (10 M)

19. List and explain Arupavacara kiria citta (10 M)

20. List and explain Lokutara  magga citta (10 M)

21. List and explain Lokutara  phala citta (10 M)
22. What is Jhana ? List and explain Jhana factors and nivaranaas (10 M)
What is a Jhana? Commentaries vs Suttas - Meaning?

Published on Feb 5, 2012

this excellent talk to a group of meditators Bhante explains what the
true meaning of a Jhana is - a level of understanding-not absorption -
And he discusses toward the end of the talk what the meditator will
experience if they follow the Jhanas all the way through to Nibbana. He
explains a different interpretation of the Satipatthana Sutta. He shows
you how he re-discovered what the Buddha taught. He addresses also,
“What is Craving?” Its an actual thing. There is a tension and
tightness in the mind that arises - like flame from something on fire.
When there is no craving there is Ni (No) bana (fire)!
He explains how he set aside the commentaries like the Vissudhi Magga
and went back to the original Suttas, as in the Majjhima Nikaya. He
asks that you please, please add the missing step back into the
meditation you are doing! That is the Relax Step. In the Suttas - the
Satipatthana Sutta - the word is “Tranquilize”.
This is an audio talk with a slide show with some added text to
emphasize Bhante’s talk.
This talk has Russian subtitles which may be turned on.
For more information on this and other talks please visit http://www.DhammaSukha.Org .
Search for more videos using “Vimalaramsi” as the key word at Youtube.
Check out Bhante’s book: “Life is Meditation; Meditation is Life” on Amazon. Just search “Vimalaramsi” on
Book just published on Bhante’s teachings


The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation
Henepola Gunaratana


PTS = Pali Text Society edition
BBS = Burmese Buddhasasana Samiti edition

A. …. Anguttara Nikaya (PTS)
D. …. Digha Nikaya (PTS)
Dhs. …. Dhammasangani (BBS)
Dhs.A. …. Dhammasangani Atthakatha = Atthasalini (BBS)
M. …. Majjhima Nikaya (PTS)
M.A. …. Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha (BBS)
Miln. …. Milindapanha (PTS)
PP. …. Path of Purification (translation of Visuddhimagga, by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli; Kandy: BPS, 1975)
S. …. Samyutta Nikaya (PTS)
SA. …. Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha (BBS)
ST. …. Samyutta Nikaya Tika (BBS)
Vbh. …. Vibhanga (PTS)
Vin.A. …. Vinaya Atthakatha (BBS)
Vism. …. Visuddhimagga (PTS)
Vism.T. …. Visuddhimagga Tika (BBS)

1. Introduction  

The Doctrinal Context of Jhana  

The Buddha says that just as in the great ocean there is but one
taste, the taste of salt, so in his doctrine and discipline there is but
one taste, the taste of freedom. The taste of freedom that pervades the
Buddha’s teaching is the taste of spiritual freedom, which from the
Buddhist perspective means freedom from suffering. In the process
leading to deliverance from suffering, meditation is the means of
generating the inner awakening required for liberation. The methods of
meditation taught in the Theravada Buddhist tradition are based on the
Buddha’s own experience, forged by him in the course of his own quest
for enlightenment. They are designed to re-create in the disciple who
practices them the same essential enlightenment that the Buddha himself
attained when he sat beneath the Bodhi tree, the awakening to the Four
Noble Truths.

The various subjects and methods of meditation expounded in the
Theravada Buddhist scriptures — the Pali canon and its commentaries —
divide into two inter-related systems. One is called the development of
serenity (samathabhavana), the other the development of insight (vipassanabhavana). The former also goes under the name of development of concentration (samadhibhavana), the latter the development of wisdom (paññabhavana).
The practice of serenity meditation aims at developing a calm,
concentrated, unified mind as a means of experiencing inner peace and as
a basis for wisdom. The practice of insight meditation aims at gaining a
direct understanding of the real nature of phenomena. Of the two, the
development of insight is regarded by Buddhism as the essential key to
liberation, the direct antidote to the ignorance underlying bondage and
suffering. Whereas serenity meditation is recognized as common to both
Buddhist and non-Buddhist contemplative disciplines, insight meditation
is held to be the unique discovery of the Buddha and an unparalleled
feature of his path. However, because the growth of insight presupposes a
certain degree of concentration, and serenity meditation helps to
achieve this, the development of serenity also claims an incontestable
place in the Buddhist meditative process. Together the two types of
meditation work to make the mind a fit instrument for enlightenment.
With his mind unified by means of the development of serenity, made
sharp and bright by the development of insight, the meditator can
proceed unobstructed to reach the end of suffering, Nibbana.

Pivotal to both systems of meditation, though belonging inherently to
the side of serenity, is a set of meditative attainments called the jhanas.
Though translators have offered various renderings of this word,
ranging from the feeble “musing” to the misleading “trance” and the
ambiguous “meditation,” we prefer to leave the word untranslated and to
let its meaning emerge from its contextual usages. From these it is
clear that the jhanas are states of deep mental unification which result
from the centering of the mind upon a single object with such power of
attention that a total immersion in the object takes place. The early
suttas speak of four jhanas, named simply after their numerical position
in the series: the first jhana, the second jhana, the third jhana and
the forth jhana. In the suttas the four repeatedly appear each described
by a standard formula which we will examine later in detail.

The importance of the jhanas in the Buddhist path can readily be
gauged from the frequency with which they are mentioned throughout the
suttas. The jhanas figure prominently both in the Buddha’s own
experience and in his exhortation to disciples. In his childhood, while
attending an annual plowing festival, the future Buddha spontaneously
entered the first jhana. It was the memory of this childhood incident,
many years later after his futile pursuit of austerities, that revealed
to him the way to enlightenment during his period of deepest despondency
(M.i, 246-47). After taking his seat beneath the Bodhi tree, the Buddha
entered the four jhanas immediately before direction his mind to the
threefold knowledge that issued in his enlightenment (M.i.247-49).
Throughout his active career the four jhanas remained “his heavenly
dwelling” (D.iii,220) to which he resorted in order to live happily here
and now. His understanding of the corruption, purification and
emergence in the jhanas and other meditative attainments is one of the
Tathagata’s ten powers which enable him to turn the matchless wheel of
the Dhamma (M.i,70). Just before his passing away the Buddha entered the
jhanas in direct and reverse order, and the passing away itself took
place directly from the fourth jhana (D.ii,156).

The Buddha is constantly seen in the suttas encouraging his disciples
to develop jhana. The four jhanas are invariably included in the
complete course of training laid down for disciples.[1] They figure in the training as the discipline of higher consciousness (adhicittasikkha), right concentration (sammasamadhi) of the Noble Eightfold Path, and the faculty and power of concentration (samadhindriya, samadhibala).
Though a vehicle of dry insight can be found, indications are that this
path is not an easy one, lacking the aid of the powerful serenity
available to the practitioner of jhana. The way of the jhana attainer
seems by comparison smoother and more pleasurable (A.ii,150-52). The
Buddha even refers to the four jhanas figuratively as a kind of Nibbana:
he calls them immediately visible Nibbana, factorial Nibbana, Nibbana
here and now (A.iv,453-54).

To attain the jhanas, the meditator must begin by eliminating the
unwholesome mental states obstructing inner collectedness, generally
grouped together as the five hindrances (pañcanivarana): sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry and doubt.[2]
The mind’s absorption on its object is brought about by five opposing
mental states — applied thought, sustained thought, rapture, happiness
and one pointedness[3] — called the jhana factors (jhanangani) because they lift the mind to the level of the first jhana and remain there as its defining components.

After reaching the first jhana the ardent meditator can go on to
reach the higher jhanas, which is done by eliminating the coarser
factors in each jhana. Beyond the four jhanas lies another fourfold set
of higher meditative states which deepen still further the element of
serenity. These attainments (aruppa), are the base of boundless
space, the base of boundless consciousness, the base of nothingness, and
the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.[4] In the Pali commentaries these come to be called the four immaterial jhanas (arupajhana), the four preceding states being renamed for the sake of clarity, the four fine-material jhanas (rupajhana). Often the two sets are joined together under the collective title of the eight jhanas or the eight attainments (atthasamapattiyo).

The four jhanas and the four immaterial attainments appear initially
as mundane states of deep serenity pertaining to the preliminary stage
of the Buddhist path, and on this level they help provide the base of
concentration needed for wisdom to arise. But the four jhanas again
reappear in a later stage in the development of the path, in direct
association with liberating wisdom, and they are then designated the supramundane (lokuttara) jhanas.
These supramundane jhanas are the levels of concentration pertaining to
the four degrees of enlightenment experience called the supramundane
paths (magga) and the stages of liberation resulting from them, the four fruits (phala).

Finally, even after full liberation is achieved, the mundane jhanas
can still remain as attainments available to the fully liberated person,
part of his untrammeled contemplative experience.

Etymology of Jhana  

The great Buddhist commentator Buddhaghosa traces the Pali word “jhana” (Skt. dhyana) to two verbal forms. One, the etymologically correct derivation, is the verb jhayati,
meaning to think or meditate; the other is a more playful derivation,
intended to illuminate its function rather than its verbal source, from
the verb jhapeti meaning to burn up. He explains: “It burns up
opposing states, thus it is jhana” (Vin.A. i, 116), the purport being
that jhana “burns up” or destroys the mental defilements preventing the
developing the development of serenity and insight.

In the same passage Buddhaghosa says that jhana has the characteristic mark of contemplation (upanijjhana).
Contemplation, he states, is twofold: the contemplation of the object
and the contemplation of the characteristics of phenomena. The former is
exercised by the eight attainments of serenity together with their
access, since these contemplate the object used as the basis for
developing concentration; for this reason these attainments are given
the name “jhana” in the mainstream of Pali meditative exposition.
However, Buddhaghosa also allows that the term “jhana” can be extended
loosely to insight (vipassana), the paths and the fruits on the
ground that these perform the work of contemplating the characteristics
of things the three marks of impermanence, suffering and non-self in the
case of insight, Nibbana in the case of the paths and fruits.

In brief the twofold meaning of jhana as “contemplation” and “burning
up” can be brought into connection with the meditative process as
follows. By fixing his mind on the object the meditator reduces and
eliminates the lower mental qualities such as the five hindrances and
promotes the growth of the higher qualities such as the jhana factors,
which lead the mind to complete absorption in the object. Then by
contemplating the characteristics of phenomena with insight, the
meditator eventually reaches the supramundane jhana of the four paths,
and with this jhana he burns up the defilements and attains the
liberating experience of the fruits.

Jhana and Samadhi  

In the vocabulary of Buddhist meditation the word “jhana” is closely connected with another word, “samadhi” generally rendered by “concentration.” Samadhi derives from the prefixed verbal root sam-a-dha, meaning to collect or to bring together, thus suggesting the concentration or unification of the mind. The word “samadhi” is almost interchangeable with the word “samatha,” serenity, though the latter comes from a different root, sam, meaning to become calm.

In the suttas samadhi is defined as mental one-pointedness, (cittass’ekaggata
M.i,301) and this definition is followed through rigorously in the
Abhidhamma. The Abhidhamma treats one-pointedness as a distinct mental
factor present in every state of consciousness, exercising the function
of unifying the mind on its object. From this strict psychological
standpoint samadhi can be present in unwholesome states of
consciousness as well as in wholesome an neutral states. In its
unwholesome forms it is called “wrong concentration” (micchasamadhi), In its wholesome forms “right concentration” (sammasamadhi).

In expositions on the practice of meditation, however, samadhi
is limited to one-pointedness of mind (Vism.84-85; PP.84-85), and even
here we can understand from the context that the word means only the
wholesome one-pointedness involved in the deliberate transmutation of
the mind to a heightened level of calm. Thus Buddhaghosa explains samadhi
etymologically as “the centering of consciousness and consciousness
concomitants evenly and rightly on a single object… the state in
virtue of which consciousness and its concomitants remain evenly and
rightly on a single object, undistracted and unscattered” (Vism.84-85;

However, despite the commentator’s bid for consistency, the word samadhi
is used in the Pali literature on meditation with varying degrees of
specificity of meaning. In the narrowest sense, as defined by
Buddhaghosa, it denotes the particular mental factor responsible for the
concentrating of the mind, namely, one-pointedness. In a wider sense it
can signify the states of unified consciousness that result from the
strengthening of concentration, i.e., the meditative attainments of
serenity and the stages leading up to them. And in a still wider sense
the word samadhi can be applied to the method of practice used to
produce and cultivate these refined states of concentration, here being
equivalent to the development of serenity.

It is in the second sense that samadhi and jhana come closest
in meaning. The Buddha explains right concentration as the four jhanas
(D.ii,313), and in doing so allows concentration to encompass the
meditative attainments signified by the jhanas. However, even though
jhana and samadhi can overlap in denotation, certain differences
in their suggested and contextual meanings prevent unqualified
identification of the two terms. First behind the Buddha’s use of the
jhana formula to explain right concentration lies a more technical
understanding of the terms. According to this understanding samadhi
can be narrowed down in range to signify only one mental factor, the
most prominent in the jhana, namely, one-pointedness, while the word
“jhana” itself must be seen as encompassing the state of consciousness
in its entirety, or at least the whole group of mental factors
individuating that meditative state as a jhana.

In the second place, when samadhi is considered in its broader
meaning it involves a wider range of reference than jhana. The Pali
exegetical tradition recognizes three levels of samadhi: preliminary concentration (parikammasamadhi),
which is produced as a result of the meditator’s initial efforts to
focus his mind on his meditation subject; access concentration (upacarasamadhi),
marked by the suppression of the five hindrances, the manifestation of
the jhana factors, and the appearance of a luminous mental replica of
the meditation object called the counterpart sign (patibhaganimitta); and absorption concentration (appanasamadhi), the complete immersion of the mind in its object effected by the full maturation of the jhana factors.[5] Absorption concentration comprises the eight attainments, the four immaterial attainments, and to this extent jhana and samadhi coincide. However, samadhi
still has a broader scope than jhana, since it includes not only the
jhanas themselves but also the two preparatory degrees of concentration
leading up to them. Further, samadhi also covers a still different type of concentration called momentary concentration (khanikasamadhi), the mobile mental stabilization produced in the course of insight contemplation of the passing flow of phenomena.

2. The Preparation for Jhana  

The jhanas do not arise out of a void but in dependence on the right
conditions. They come to growth only when provided with the nutriments
conductive to their development. Therefore, prior to beginning
meditation, the aspirant to the jhanas must prepare a groundwork for his
practice by fulfilling certain preliminary requirements. He first must
endeavor to purify his moral virtue, sever the outer impediments to
practice, and place himself under a qualified teacher who will assign
him a suitable meditation subject and explain to him the methods of
developing it. After learning these the disciple must then seek out a
congenial dwelling and diligently strive for success. In this chapter we
will examine in order each of the preparatory steps that have to be
fulfilled before commencing to develop jhana.

The Moral Foundation for Jhana  

A disciple aspiring to the jhanas first has to lay a solid foundation
of moral discipline. Moral purity is indispensable to meditative
progress for several deeply psychological reasons. It is needed first,
in order to safeguard against the danger of remorse, the nagging sense
of guilt that arises when the basic principles of morality are ignored
or deliberately violated. Scrupulous conformity to virtuous rules of
conduct protects the meditator from this danger disruptive to inner
calm, and brings joy and happiness when the meditator reflects upon the
purity of his conduct (see A.v,1-7).

A second reason a moral foundation is needed for meditation follows
from an understanding of the purpose of concentration. Concentration, in
the Buddhist discipline, aims at providing a base for wisdom by
cleansing the mind of the dispersive influence of the defilements. But
in order for the concentration exercises to effectively combat the
defilements, the coarser expressions of the latter through bodily and
verbal action first have to be checked. Moral transgressions being
invariably motivated by defilements — by greed, hatred and delusion —
when a person acts in violation of the precepts of morality he excites
and reinforces the very same mental factors his practice of meditation
is intended to eliminate. This involves him in a crossfire of
incompatible aims which renders his attempts at mental purification
ineffective. The only way he can avoid frustration in his endeavor to
purify the mind of its subtler defilements is to prevent the unwholesome
inner impulses from breathing out in the coarser form of unwholesome
bodily and verbal deeds. Only when he establishes control over the outer
expression of the defilements can he turn to deal with them inwardly as
mental obsessions that appear in the process of meditation.

The practice of moral discipline consists negatively in abstinence
from immoral actions of body and speech and positively in the observance
of ethical principles promoting peace within oneself and harmony in
one’s relations with others. The basic code of moral discipline taught
by the Buddha for the guidance of his lay followers is the five
precepts: abstinence from taking life, from stealing, from sexual
misconduct, from false speech, and from intoxicating drugs and drinks.
These principles are bindings as minimal ethical obligations for all
practitioners of the Buddhist path, and within their bounds considerable
progress in meditation can be made. However, those aspiring to reach
the higher levels of jhanas and to pursue the path further to the stages
of liberation, are encouraged to take up the more complete moral
discipline pertaining to the life of renunciation. Early Buddhism is
unambiguous in its emphasis on the limitations of household life for
following the path in its fullness and perfection. Time and again the
texts say that the household life is confining, a “path for the dust of
passion,” while the life of homelessness is like open space. Thus a
disciple who is fully intent upon making rapid progress towards Nibbana
will when outer conditions allow for it, “shave off his hair and beard,
put on the yellow robe, and go forth from the home life into
homelessness” (M.i,179).

The moral training for the bhikkhus or monks has been arranged into a system called the fourfold purification of morality (catuparisuddhisila).[6] The first component of this scheme, its backbone, consists in the morality of restraint according to the Patimokkha,
the code of 227 training precepts promulgated by the Buddha to regulate
the conduct of the Sangha or monastic order. Each of these rules is in
some way intended to facilitate control over the defilements and to
induce a mode of living marked by harmlessness, contentment and
simplicity. The second aspect of the monk’s moral discipline is restraint of the senses,
by which the monk maintains close watchfulness over his mind as he
engages in sense contacts so that he does not give rise to desire for
pleasurable objects and aversion towards repulsive ones. Third, the monk
is to live by a purified livelihood, obtaining his basic
requisites such as robes, food, lodgings and medicines in ways
consistent with his vocation. The fourth factor of the moral training is
proper use of the requisites, which means that the monk should
reflect upon the purposes for which he makes use of his requisites and
should employ them only for maintaining his health and comfort, not for
luxury and enjoyment.

After establishing a foundation of purified morality, the aspirant to meditation is advised to cut off any outer impediments (palibodha)
that may hinder his efforts to lead a contemplative life. These
impediments are numbered as ten: a dwelling, which becomes an impediment
for those who allow their minds to become preoccupied with its upkeep
or with its appurtenances; a family of relatives or supporters with whom
the aspirant may become emotionally involved in ways that hinder his
progress; gains, which may bind the monk by obligation to those who
offer them; a class of students who must be instructed; building work,
which demands time and attention; travel; kin, meaning parents,
teachers, pupils or close friends; illness; the study of scriptures; and
supernormal powers, which are an impediment to insight (Vism.90-97;

The Good Friend and the Subject of Meditation  

The path of practice leading to the jhanas is an arduous course
involving precise techniques and skillfulness is needed in dealing with
the pitfalls that lie along the way. The knowledge of how to attain the
jhanas has been transmitted through a lineage of teachers going back to
the time of the Buddha himself. A prospective meditator is advised to
avail himself of the living heritage of accumulated knowledge and
experience by placing himself under the care of a qualified teacher,
described as a “good friend” (kalyanamitta), one who gives
guidance and wise advice rooted in his own practice and experience. On
the basis of either of the power of penetrating others minds, or by
personal observation, or by questioning, the teacher will size up the
temperament of his new pupil and then select a meditation subject for
him appropriate to his temperament.

The various meditation subjects that the Buddha prescribed for the
development of serenity have been collected in the commentaries into a
set called the forty kammatthana. This word means literally a
place of work, and is applied to the subject of meditation as the place
where the meditator undertakes the work of meditation. The forty
meditation subjects are distributed into seven categories, enumerated in
the Visuddhimagga as follows: ten kasinas, ten kinds of
foulness, ten recollections, four divine abidings, four immaterial
states, one perception, and one defining.[7]

A kasina is a device representing a particular quality used as a
support for concentration. The ten kasinas are those of earth, water,
fire and air; four color kasinas — blue, yellow, red and white; the
light kasina and the limited space kasina. The kasina can be either a
naturally occurring form of the element or color chosen, or an
artificially produced device such as a disk that the meditator can use
at his convenience in his meditation quarters.

The ten kinds of foulness are ten stages in the decomposition of a
corpse: the bloated, the livid, the festering, the cut-up, the gnawed,
the scattered, the hacked and scattered, the bleeding, the worm-infested
and a skeleton. The primary purpose of these meditations is to reduce
sensual lust by gaining a clear perception of the repulsiveness of the

The ten recollections are the recollections of the Buddha, the
Dhamma, the Sangha, morality, generosity and the deities, mindfulness of
death, mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of breathing, and the
recollection of peace. The first three are devotional contemplations on
the sublime qualities of the “Three Jewels,” the primary objects of
Buddhist virtues and on the deities inhabiting the heavenly worlds,
intended principally for those still intent on a higher rebirth.
Mindfulness of death is reflection on the inevitability of death, a
constant spur to spiritual exertion. Mindfulness of the body involves
the mental dissection of the body into thirty-two parts, undertaken with
a view to perceiving its unattractiveness. Mindfulness of breathing is
awareness of the in-and-out movement of the breath, perhaps the most
fundamental of all Buddhist meditation subjects. And the recollection of
peace is reflection on the qualities of Nibbana.

The four divine abidings (brahmavihara) are the development of
boundless loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
These meditations are also called the “immeasurables” (appamañña) because they are to be developed towards all sentient beings without qualification or exclusiveness.

The four immaterial states are the base of boundless space, the base
of boundless consciousness, the base of nothingness, and the base of
neither-perception-nor-non-perception. These are the objects leading to
the corresponding meditative attainments, the immaterial jhanas.

The one perception is the perception of the repulsiveness of food.
The one defining is the defining of the four elements, that is, the
analysis of the physical body into the elemental modes of solidity,
fluidity, heat and oscillation.

The forty meditation subjects are treated in the commentarial texts
from two important angles — one their ability to induce different levels
of concentration, the other their suitability for differing
temperaments. Not all meditation subjects are equally effective in
inducing the deeper levels of concentration. They are first
distinguished on the basis of their capacity for inducing only access
concentration or for inducing full absorption; those capable of inducing
absorption are then distinguished further according to their ability to
induce the different levels of jhana.

Of the forty subjects, ten are capable of leading only to access
concentration: eight recollections — i.e., all except mindfulness of the
body and mindfulness of breathing — plus the perception of
repulsiveness in nutriment and the defining of the four elements. These,
because they are occupied with a diversity of qualities and involve and
active application of discursive thought, cannot lead beyond access.
The other thirty subjects can all lead to absorption.

The ten kasinas and mindfulness of breathing, owing to their
simplicity and freedom from thought construction, can lead to all four
jhanas. The ten kinds of foulness and mindfulness of the body lead only
to the first jhana, being limited because the mind can only hold onto
them with the aid of applied thought (vitakka) which is absent in
the second and higher jhanas. The first three divine abidings can
induce the lower three jhanas but not the fourth, since they arise in
association with pleasant feeling, while the divine abiding of
equanimity occurs only at the level of the fourth jhana, where neutral
feeling gains ascendency. The four immaterial states conduce to the
respective immaterial jhanas corresponding to their names.

The forty subjects are also differentiated according to their
appropriateness for different character types. Six main character types
are recognized — the greedy, the hating, the deluded, the faithful, the
intelligent and the speculative — this oversimplified typology being
taken only as a pragmatic guideline which in practice admits various
shades and combinations. The ten kind of foulness and mindfulness of the
body, clearly intended to attenuate sensual desire, are suitable for
those of greedy temperament. Eight subjects — the four divine abidings
and four color kasinas — are appropriate for the hating temperament.
Mindfulness of breathing is suitable for those of the deluded and the
speculative temperament. The first six recollections are appropriate for
the faithful temperament. Four subjects — mindfulness of death, the
recollection of peace, the defining of the four elements, and the
perception of the repulsiveness in nutriment — are especially effective
for those of intelligent temperament. The remaining six kasinas and the
immaterial states are suitable for all kinds of temperaments. But the
kasinas should be limited in size for one of speculative temperament and
large in size for one of deluded temperament.

Immediately after giving this breakdown Buddhaghosa adds a proviso to
prevent misunderstanding. He states that this division by way of
temperament is made on the basis of direct opposition and complete
suitability, but actually there is no wholesome form of meditation that
does not suppress the defilements and strengthen the virtuous mental
factors. Thus an individual meditator may be advised to meditate on
foulness to abandon lust, on loving-kindness to abandon hatred, on
breathing to cut off discursive thought, and on impermanence to
eliminate the conceit “I am” (A.iv,358).

Choosing a Suitable Dwelling  

The teacher assigns a meditation subject to his pupil appropriate to
his character and explains the methods of developing it. He can teach it
gradually to a pupil who is going to remain in close proximity to him,
or in detail to one who will go to practice it elsewhere. If the
disciple is not going to stay with his teacher he must be careful to
select a suitable place for meditation. The texts mention eighteen kinds
of monasteries unfavorable to the development of jhana: a large
monastery, a new one, a dilapidated one, one near a road, one with a
pond, leaves, flowers or fruits, one sought after by many people, one in
cities, among timber of fields, where people quarrel, in a port, in
border lands, on a frontier, a haunted place, and one without access to a
spiritual teacher (Vism. 118-121; PP122-125).

The factors which make a dwelling favorable to meditation are
mentioned by the Buddha himself. If should not be too far from or too
near a village that can be relied on as an alms resort, and should have a
clear path: it should be quiet and secluded; it should be free from
rough weather and from harmful insects and animals; one should be able
to obtain one’s physical requisites while dwelling there; and the
dwelling should provide ready access to learned elders and spiritual
friends who can be consulted when problems arise in meditation (A.v,15).
The types of dwelling places commended by the Buddha most frequently in
the suttas as conductive to the jhanas are a secluded dwelling in the
forest, at the foot of a tree, on a mountain, in a cleft, in a cave, in a
cemetery, on a wooded flatland, in the open air, or on a heap of straw
(M.i,181). Having found a suitable dwelling and settled there, the
disciple should maintain scrupulous observance of the rules of
discipline, He should be content with his simple requisites, exercise
control over his sense faculties, be mindful and discerning in all
activities, and practice meditation diligently as he was instructed. It
is at this point that he meets the first great challenge of his
contemplative life, the battle with the five hindrances.

3. The First Jhana and its Factors  

The attainment of any jhana comes about through a twofold process of
development. On one side the states obstructive to it, called its
factors of abandonment, have to be eliminated, on the other the states
composing it, called its factors of possession, have to be acquired. In
the case of the first jhana the factors of abandonment are the five
hindrances and the factors of possession the five basic jhana factors.
Both are alluded to in the standard formula for the first jhana, the
opening phrase referring to the abandonment of the hindrances and the
subsequent portion enumerating the jhana factors:

Quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states
of mind, he enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied
by applied thought and sustained thought with rapture and happiness born
of seclusion. (M.i,1818; Vbh.245)

In this chapter we will first discuss the five hindrances and their
abandonment, then we will investigate the jhana factors both
individually and by way of their combined contribution to the attainment
of the first jhana. We will close the chapter with some remarks on the
ways of perfecting the first jhana, a necessary preparation for the
further development of concentration.

The Abandoning of the Hindrances  

The five hindrances (pañcanivarana) are sensual desire, ill
will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt. This group,
the principal classification the Buddha uses for the obstacles to
meditation, receives its name because its five members hinder and
envelop the mind, preventing meditative development in the two spheres
of serenity and insight. Hence the Buddha calls them “obstructions,
hindrances, corruptions of the mind which weaken wisdom”(S.v,94).

The hindrance of sensual desire (kamachanda) is explained as
desire for the “five strands of sense pleasure,” that is, for pleasant
forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangibles. It ranges from subtle
liking to powerful lust. The hindrance of ill will (byapada)
signifies aversion directed towards disagreeable persons or things. It
can vary in range from mild annoyance to overpowering hatred. Thus the
first two hindrances correspond to the first two root defilements, greed
and hate. The third root defilement, delusion, is not enumerated
separately among the hindrances but can be found underlying the
remaining three.

Sloth and torpor is a compound hindrance made up of two components: sloth (thina), which is dullness, inertia or mental stiffness; and torpor (middha), which is indolence or drowsiness. Restlessness and worry is another double hindrance, restlessness (uddhacca) being explained as excitement, agitation or disquietude, worry (kukkucca) as the sense of guilt aroused by moral transgressions. Finally, the hindrance of doubt (vicikiccha) is explained as uncertainty with regard to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha and the training.

The Buddha offers two sets of similes to illustrate the detrimental
effect of the hindrances. The first compares the five hindrances to five
types of calamity: sensual desire is like a debt, ill will like a
disease, sloth and torpor like imprisonment, restless and worry like
slavery, and doubt like being lost on a desert road. Release from the
hindrances is to be seen as freedom from debt, good health, release from
prison, emancipation from slavery, and arriving at a place of safety
(D.i,71-73). The second set of similes compares the hindrances to five
kinds of impurities affecting a bowl of water, preventing a keen-sighted
man from seeing his own reflection as it really is. Sensual desire is
like a bowl of water mixed with brightly colored paints, ill will like a
bowl of boiling water, sloth and torpor like water covered by mossy
plants, restlessness and worry like water blown into ripples by the
wind, and doubt like muddy water. Just as the keen-eyed man would not be
able to see his reflection in these five kinds of water, so one whose
mind is obsessed by the five hindrances does not know and see as it is
his own good, the good of others or the good of both (S.v,121-24).
Although there are numerous defilements opposed to the first jhana the
five hindrances alone are called its factors of abandoning. One reason
according to the Visuddhimagga, is that the hindrances are
specifically obstructive to jhana, each hindrance impeding in its own
way the mind’s capacity for concentration.

The mind affected through lust by greed for varied objective fields
does not become concentrated on an object consisting in unity, or being
overwhelmed by lust, it does not enter on the way to abandoning the
sense-desire element. When pestered by ill will towards an object, it
does not occur uninterruptedly. When overcome by stiffness and torpor,
it is unwieldy. When seized by agitation and worry, it is unquiet and
buzzes about. When stricken by uncertainty, it fails to mount the way to
accomplish the attainment of jhana. So it is these only that are called
factors of abandonment because they are specifically obstructive to
jhana.(Vism.146: PP.152)

A second reason for confining the first jhana’s factors of abandoning
to the five hindrances is to permit a direct alignment to be made
between the hindrances and the jhanic factors. Buddhaghosa states that
the abandonment of the five hindrances alone is mentioned in connection
with jhana because the hindrances are the direct enemies of the five
jhana factors, which the latter must eliminate and abolish. To support
his point the commentator cites a passage demonstrating a one-to-one
correspondence between the jhana factors and the hindrances:
one-pointedness is opposed to sensual desire, rapture to ill will,
applied thought to sloth and torpor, happiness to restlessness and
worry, and sustained thought to doubt (Vism. 141; PP.147).[8]
Thus each jhana factor is seen as having the specific task of
eliminating a particular obstruction to the jhana and to correlate these
obstructions with the five jhana factors they are collected into a
scheme of five hindrances.

The standard passage describing the attainment of the first jhana
says that the jhana is entered upon by one who is “secluded from sense
pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind.” The Visuddhimagga explains that there are three kinds of seclusion relevant to the present context — namely, bodily seclusion (kayaviveka), mental seclusion (cittaviveka), and seclusion by suppression (vikkhambhanaviveka)
(Vism. 140; PP.145). These three terms allude to two distinct sets of
exegetical categories. The first two belong to a threefold arrangement
made up of bodily seclusion, mental seclusion, and “seclusion from the
substance” (upadhiviveka). The first means physical withdrawal
from active social engagement into a condition of solitude for the
purpose of devoting time and energy to spiritual development. The
second, which generally presupposes the first, means the seclusion of
the mind from its entanglement in defilements; it is in effect
equivalent to concentration of at least the access level. The third,
“seclusion from the substance,” is Nibbana, liberation from the elements
of phenomenal existence. The achievement of the first jhana does not
depend on the third, which is its outcome rather than prerequisite, but
it does require physical solitude and the separation of the mind from
defilements, hence bodily and mental seclusion. The third type of
seclusion pertinent to the context, seclusion by suppression, belongs to
a different scheme generally discussed under the heading of
“abandonment” (pahana) rather than “seclusion.” The type of
abandonment required for the attainment of jhana is abandonment by
suppression, which means the removal of the hindrances by force of
concentration similar to the pressing down of weeds in a pond by means
of a porous pot.[9]

The work of overcoming the five hindrances is accomplished through the gradual training (anupubbasikkha)
which the Buddha has laid down so often in the suttas, such as the
Samaññaphala Sutta and the Culahatthipadopama Sutta. The gradual
training is a step-by-step process designed to lead the practitioner
gradually to liberation. The training begins with moral discipline, the
undertaking and observance of specific rules of conduct which enable the
disciple to control the coarser modes of bodily and verbal misconduct
through which the hindrances find an outlet. With moral discipline as a
basis, the disciple practices the restraint of the senses. He does not
seize upon the general appearances of the beguiling features of things,
but guards and masters his sense faculties so that sensual attractive
and repugnant objects no longer become grounds for desire and aversion.
Then, endowed with the self-restraint, he develops mindfulness and
discernment (sati-sampajañña) in all his activities and postures,
examining everything he does with clear awareness as to its purpose and
suitability. He also cultivates contentment with a minimum of robes,
food, shelter and other requisites.

Once he has fulfilled these preliminaries the disciple is prepared to
go into solitude to develop the jhanas, and it is here that he directly
confronts the five hindrances. The elimination of the hindrances
requires that the meditator honestly appraises his own mind. When
sensuality, ill will and the other hindrances are present, he must
recognize that they are present and he must investigate the conditions
that lead to their arising: the latter he must scrupulously avoid. The
meditator must also understand the appropriate antidotes for each of the
five hindrances. The Buddha says that all the hindrances arise through
unwise consideration (ayoniso manasikara) and that they can be eliminated by wise consideration (yoniso manasikara).
Each hindrance, however, has its own specific antidote. Thus wise
consideration of the repulsive feature of things is the antidote to
sensual desire; wise consideration of loving-kindness counteracts ill
will; wise consideration of the elements of effort, exertion and
striving opposes sloth and torpor; wise consideration of tranquillity of
mind removes restlessness and worry; and wise consideration of the real
qualities of things eliminates doubt (S.v,105-106).

Having given up covetousness [i.e., sensual desire] with regard to the
world, he dwells with a heart free of covetousness; he cleanses his mind
from covetousness. Having given up the blemish of ill will, he dwells
without ill will; friendly and compassionate towards all living beings,
he cleanses his mind from the blemishes of ill will. Having given up
sloth and torpor, he dwells free from sloth and torpor, in the
perception of light; mindful and clearly comprehending, he cleanses his
mind from sloth and torpor. Having given up restlessness and worry, he
dwells without restlessness; his mind being calmed within, he cleanses
it from restlessness and worry. Having given up doubt, he dwells as one
who has passed beyond doubt; being free from uncertainty about wholesome
things, he cleanses his mind from doubt…

And when he sees himself free of these five hindrances, joy arises;
in him who is joyful, rapture arises; in him whose mind is enraptured,
the body is stilled; the body being stilled, he feels happiness; and a
happy mind finds concentration. Then, quite secluded from sense
pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and
dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied thought and
sustained thought, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion.

The Factors of the First Jhana  

The first jhana possesses five component factors: applied thought,
sustained thought, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness of mind. Four
of these are explicitly mentioned in the formula for the jhana; the
fifth, one-pointedness, is mentioned elsewhere in the suttas but is
already suggested by the notion of jhana itself. These five states
receive their name, first because they lead the mind from the level of
ordinary consciousness to the jhanic level, and second because they
constitute the first jhana and give it its distinct definition.

The jhana factors are first aroused by the meditator’s initial
efforts to concentrate upon one of the prescribed objects for developing
jhana. As he fixes his mind on the preliminary object, such as a kasina
disk, a point is eventually reached where he can perceive the object as
clearly with his eyes closed as with them open. This visualized object
is called the learning sign (uggahanimitta). As he concentrates
on the learning sign, his efforts call into play the embryonic jhana
factors, which grow in force, duration and prominence as a result of the
meditative exertion. These factors, being incompatible with the
hindrances, attenuate them, exclude them, and hold them at bay. With
continued practice the learning sign gives rise to a purified luminous
replica of itself called the counterpart sign (patibhaganimitta), the manifestation of which marks the complete suppression of the hindrances and the attainment of access concentration (upacarasamadhi).
All three events — the suppression of the hindrances, the arising of
the counterpart sign, and the attainment of access concentration — take
place at precisely the same moment, without interval (Vism. 126;
PP.131). And though previously the process of mental cultivation may
have required the elimination of different hindrances at different
times, when access is achieved they all subside together:

Simultaneously with his acquiring the counterpart sign his lust is
abandoned by suppression owing to his giving no attention externally to
sense desires (as object). And owing to his abandoning of approval, ill
will is abandoned too, as pus is with the abandoning of blood. Likewise
stiffness and torpor is abandoned through exertion of energy, agitation
and worry is abandoned through devotion to peaceful things that cause no
remorse; and uncertainty about the Master who teaches the way, about
the way, and about the fruit of the way, about the way, and about the
fruit of the way, is abandoned through the actual experience of the
distinction attained. So the five hindrances are abandoned. (Vism. 189;

Though the mental factors determinative of the first jhana are
present in access concentration, they do not as yet possess sufficient
strength to constitute the jhana, but are strong enough only to exclude
the hindrances. With continued practice, however, the nascent jhana
factors grow in strength until they are capable of issuing in jhana.
Because of the instrumental role these factors play both in the
attainment and constitution of the first jhana they are deserving of
closer individual scrutiny.

Applied Thought (vitakka)  

The word vitakka frequently appears in the texts in conjunction with the word vicara.
The pair signify two interconnected but distinct aspects of the thought
process, and to bring out the difference between them (as well as their
common character), we translate the one as applied thought and the
other as sustained thought.

In both the suttas and the Abhidhamma applied thought is defined as the application of the mind to its object (cetaso abhiniropana), a function which the Atthasalini
illustrates thus: “Just as someone ascends the king’s palace in
dependence on a relative of friend dear to the king, so the mind ascends
the object in dependence on applied thought” (Dhs.A.157). This function
of applying the mind to the object is common to the wide variety of
modes in which the mental factor of applied thought occurs, ranging from
sense discrimination to imagination, reasoning and deliberation and to
the practice of concentration culminating in the first jhana. Applied
thought can be unwholesome as in thoughts of sensual pleasure, ill will
and cruelty, or wholesome as in thoughts of renunciation, benevolence
and compassion (M.i,116).

In jhana applied through is invariably wholesome and its function of
directing the mind upon its object stands forth with special clarity. To
convey this the Visuddhimagga explains that in jhana the
function of applied thought is “to strike at and thresh — for the
meditator is said, in virtue of it, to have the object struck at by
applied thought, threshed by applied thought” (Vism.142;PP148). The Milindapanha makes the same point by defining applied thought as absorption (appana):
“Just as a carpenter drives a well-fashioned piece of wood into a
joint, so applied thought has the characteristic of absorption”

The object of jhana into which vitakka drives the mind and its
concomitant states is the counterpart sign, which emerges from the
learning sign as the hindrances are suppressed and the mind enters
access concentration. The Visuddhimagga explains the difference between the two signs thus:

In the learning sign any fault in the kasina is apparent. But the
counterpart sign appears as if breaking out from the learning sign, and a
hundred times, a thousand times more purified, like a looking-glass
disk drawn from its case, like a mother-of-pearl dish well washed, like
the moon’s disk coming out from behind a cloud, like cranes against a
thunder cloud. But it has neither color nor shape; for if it had, it
would be cognizable by the eye, gross, susceptible of comprehension (by
insight) and stamped with the three characteristics. But it is not like
that. For it is born only of perception in one who has obtained
concentration, being a mere mode of appearance (Vism. 125-26; PP.130)

The counterpart sign is the object of both access concentration and
jhana, which differ neither in their object nor in the removal of the
hindrances but in the strength of their respective jhana factors. In the
former the factors are still weak, not yet fully developed, while in
the jhana they are strong enough to make the mind fully absorbed in the
object. In this process applied thought is the factor primarily
responsible for directing the mind towards the counterpart sign and
thrusting it in with the force of full absorption.

Sustained Thought (vicara)  

Vicara seems to represent a more developed phase of the thought process than vitakka.
The commentaries explain that it has the characteristic of “continued
pressure” on the object (Vim. 142; PP.148). Applied thought is described
as the first impact of the mind on the object, the gross inceptive
phase of thought; sustained thought is described as the act of anchoring
the mind on the object, the subtle phase of continued mental pressure.
Buddhaghosa illustrates the difference between the two with a series of
similes. Applied thought is like striking a bell, sustained thought like
the ringing; applied thought is like a bee’s flying towards a flower,
sustained thought like its buzzing around the flower; applied thought is
like a compass pin that stays fixed to the center of a circle,
sustained thought like the pin that revolves around (Vism. 142-43;

These similes make it clear that applied thought and sustained
thought functionally associated, perform different tasks. Applied
thought brings the mind to the object, sustained thought fixes and
anchors it there. Applied thought focuses the mind on the object,
sustained thought examines and inspects what is focused on. Applied
thought brings a deepening of concentration by again and again leading
the mind back to the same object, sustained thought sustains the
concentration achieved by keeping the mind anchored on that object.

Rapture (piti)  

The third factor present in the first jhana is piti, usually translated as joy or rapture.[11] In the suttas piti is sometimes said to arise from another quality called pamojja,
translated as joy or gladness, which springs up with the abandonment of
the five hindrances. When the disciple sees the five hindrances
abandoned in himself “gladness arises within him; thus gladdened,
rapture arises in him; and when he is rapturous his body becomes
tranquil” (D.i,73). Tranquillity in turn leads to happiness, on the
basis of which the mind becomes concentrated. Thus rapture precedes the
actual arising of the first jhana, but persists through the remaining
stages up to the third jhana.

The Vibhanga defines piti as “gladness, joy, joyfulness,
mirth, merriment, exultation, exhilaration, and satisfaction of mind”
(Vbh. 257). The commentaries ascribe to it the characteristic of
endearing, the function of refreshing the body and mind or pervading
with rapture, and the manifestation as elation (Vism.143; PP.149). Shwe
Zan Aung explains that “piti abstracted means interest of varying degrees of intensity, in an object felt as desirable or as calculated to bring happiness.”[12]

When defined in terms of agency, piti is that which creates interest
in the object; when defined in terms of its nature it is the interest in
the object. Because it creates a positive interest in the object, the
jhana factor of rapture is able to counter and suppress the hindrance of
ill will, a state of aversion implying a negative evaluation of the

Rapture is graded into five categories: minor rapture, momentary
rapture, showering rapture, uplifting rapture and pervading rapture.[13]
Minor rapture is generally the first to appear in the progressive
development of meditation; it is capable of causing the hairs of the
body to rise. Momentary rapture, which is like lightning, comes next but
cannot be sustained for long. Showering rapture runs through the body
in waves, producing a thrill but without leaving a lasting impact.
Uplifting rapture, which can cause levitation, is more sustained but
still tends to disturb concentration, The form of rapture most
conductive to the attainment of jhana is all-pervading rapture, which is
said to suffuse the whole body so that it becomes like a full bladder
or like a mountain cavern inundated with a mighty flood of water. The Visuddhimagga
states that what is intended by the jhana factor of rapture is this
all-pervading rapture “which is the root of absorption and comes by
growth into association with absorption” (Vism.144; PP.151)

Happiness (sukha)  

As a factor of the first jhana, sukha signifies pleasant feeling. The word is explicitly defined in the sense by the Vibhanga
in its analysis of the first jhana: “Therein, what is happiness? Mental
pleasure and happiness born of mind-contact, the felt pleasure and
happiness born of mind-contact, pleasurable and happy feeling born of
mind contact — this is called ‘happiness’ ” (Vbh.257). The Visuddhimagga
explains that happiness in the first jhana has the characteristic of
gratifying, the function of intensifying associated states, and as
manifestation, the rendering of aid to its associated states (Vism. 145;

Rapture and happiness link together in a very close relationship, but
though the two are difficult to distinguish, they are not identical.
Happiness is a feeling (vedana); rapture a mental formation
(sankhara). Happiness always accompanies rapture, so that when rapture
is present happiness must always be present; but rapture does not always
accompany happiness, for in the third jhana, as we will see, there is
happiness but no rapture. The Atthasalini, which explains rapture
as “delight in the attaining of the desired object” and happiness as
“the enjoyment of the taste of what is acquired,” illustrates the
difference by means of a simile:

Rapture is like a weary traveler in the desert in summer, who hears of,
or sees water of a shady wood. Ease [happiness] is like his enjoying
the water of entering the forest shade. For a man who, traveling along
the path through a great desert and overcome by the heat, is thirsty and
desirous of drink, if he saw a man on the way, would ask ‘Where is
water?’ The other would say, ‘Beyond the wood is a dense forest with a
natural lake. Go there, and you will get some.’ He, hearing these words,
would be glad and delighted and as he went would see lotus leaves,
etc., fallen on the ground and become more glad and delighted. Going
onwards, he would see men with wet clothes and hair, hear the sounds of
wild fowl and pea-fowl, etc., see the dense forest of green like a net
of jewels growing by the edge of the natural lake, he would see the
water lily, the lotus, the white lily, etc., growing in the lake, he
would see the clear transparent water, he would be all the more glad and
delighted, would descend into the natural lake, bathe and drink at
pleasure and, his oppression being allayed, he would eat the fibers and
stalks of the lilies, adorn himself with the blue lotus, carry on his
shoulders the roots of the mandalaka, ascend from the lake, put on his
clothes, dry the bathing cloth in the sun, and in the cool shade where
the breeze blew ever so gently lay himself down and saw: ‘O bliss! O
bliss!’ Thus should this illustration be applied. The time of gladness
and delight from when he heard of the natural lake and the dense forest
till he saw the water is like rapture having the manner of gladness and
delight at the object in view. The time when, after his bath and dried
he laid himself down in the cool shade, saying, ‘O bliss! O bliss!’
etc., is the sense of ease [happiness] grown strong, established in that
mode of enjoying the taste of the object.[14]

Since rapture and happiness co-exist in the first jhana, this simile
should not be taken to imply that they are mutually exclusive. Its
purport is to suggest that rapture gains prominence before happiness,
for which it helps provide a causal foundation.

In the description of the first jhana, rapture and happiness are said
to be “born of seclusion” and to suffuse the whole body of the
meditator in such a way that there is no part of his body which remains
unaffected by them:

Monks, secluded from sense pleasure… a monk enters and dwells in the
first jhana. He steeps, drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the
rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of his
entire body that is not suffused with this rapture and happiness. Just
as a skilled bath-attendant or his apprentice might strew bathing powder
in a copper basin, sprinkle it again and again with water, and knead it
together so that the mass of bathing soap would be pervaded, suffused,
and saturated with moisture inside and out yet would not ooze moisture,
so a monk steeps, drenches, fills and suffuses his body with the rapture
and happiness born of seclusion, so that, there is no part of his
entire body that is not suffused with this rapture and happiness born of
seclusion. (D.i,74)

One-pointedness (ekaggata)  

Unlike the previous four jhana factors, one-pointedness is not
specifically mentioned in the standard formula for the first jhana, but
it is included among the jhana factors by the Mahavedalla Sutta
(M.i,294) as well as in the Abhidhamma and the commentaries.
One-pointedness is a universal mental concomitant, the factor by virtue
of which the mind is centered upon its object. It brings the mind to a
single point, the point occupied by the object.

One-pointedness is used in the text as a synonym for concentration (samadhi)
which has the characteristic of non-distraction, the function of
eliminating distractions, non-wavering as its manifestation, and
happiness as its proximate cause (Vism.85; PP.85). As a jhana factor
one-pointedness is always directed to a wholesome object and wards off
unwholesome influences, in particular the hindrance of sensual desire.
As the hindrances are absent in jhana one-pointedness acquires special
strength, based on the previous sustained effort of concentration.

Besides the five jhana factors, the first jhana contains a great
number of other mental factors functioning in unison as coordinate
members of a single state of consciousness. Already the Anupada Sutta
lists such additional components of the first jhana as contact, feeling,
perception, volition, consciousness, desire, decision, energy,
mindfulness, equanimity and attention (M.iii,25). In the Abhidhamma
literature this is extended still further up to thirty-three
indispensable components. Nevertheless, only five states are called the
factors of the first jhana, for only these have the functions of
inhibiting the five hindrances and fixing the mind in absorption. For
the jhana to arise all these five factors must be present
simultaneously, exercising their special operations:

But applied thought directs the mind onto the object; sustained thought
keeps it anchored there. Happiness [rapture] produced by the success of
the effort refreshes the mind whose effort has succeeded through not
being distracted by those hindrances; and bliss [happiness] intensifies
it for the same reason. Then unification aided by this directing onto,
this anchoring, this refreshing and this intensifying, evenly and
rightly centers the mind with its remaining associated states on the
object consisting in unity. Consequently possession of five factors
should be understood as the arising of these five, namely, applied
thought, sustained thought, happiness [rapture], bliss [happiness], and
unification of mind. For it is when these are arisen that jhana is said
to be arisen, which is why they are called the five factors of
possession. (Vism.146;PP.152)

Each jhana factor serves as support for the one which succeeds it.
Applied thought must direct the mind to its object in order for
sustained thought to anchor it there. Only when the mind is anchored can
the interest develop which will culminate in rapture. As rapture
develops it brings happiness to maturity, and this spiritual happiness,
by providing an alternative to the fickle pleasures of the senses, aids
the growth of one-pointedness. In this way, as Nagasena explains, all
the other wholesome states lead to concentration, which stands at their
head like the apex on the roof of a house (Miln. 38-39).

Perfecting the First Jhana  

The difference between access and absorption concentration, as we
have said, does not lie in the absence of the hindrances, which is
common to both, but in the relative strength of the jhana factors. In
access the factors are weak so that concentration is fragile, comparable
to a child who walks a few steps and then falls down. But in absorption
the jhana factors are strong and well developed so that the mind can
remain continuously in concentration just as a healthy man can remain
standing on his feet for a whole day and night (Vism.126; PP.131).

Because full absorption offers the benefit of strengthened
concentration, a meditator who gains access is encouraged to strive for
the attainment of jhana. To develop his practice several important
measures are recommended.[15]
The meditator should live in a suitable dwelling, rely upon a suitable
alms resort, avoid profitless talk, associate only with
spiritually-minded companions, make use only of suitable food, live in a
congenial climate, and maintain his practice in a suitable posture. He
should also cultivate the ten kinds of skill in absorption. He should
clean his lodging and his physical body so that they conduce to clear
meditation, balance his spiritual faculties by seeing that faith is
balanced with wisdom and energy with concentration, and he must be
skillful in producing and developing the sign of concentration (1-3). He
should exert the mind when it is slack, restrain it when it is
agitated, encourage it when it is restless or dejected, and look at the
mind with equanimity when all is proceeding well (4-7). The meditator
should avoid distracting persons, should approach people experienced in
concentration, and should be firm in his resolution to attain jhana

After attaining the first jhana a few times the meditator is not
advised to set out immediately striving for the second jhana. This would
be a foolish and profitless spiritual ambition. Before he is prepared
to make the second jhana the goal of his endeavor he must first bring
the first jhana to perfection. If he is too eager to reach the second
jhana before he has perfected the first, he is likely to fail to gain
the second and find himself unable to regain the first. The Buddha
compares such a meditator to a foolish cow who, while still unfamiliar
with her own pasture, sets out for new pastures and gets lost in the
mountains: she fails to find food or drink and is unable to find her way
home (A.iv, 418-19).

The perfecting of the first jhana involves two steps: the extension
of the sign and the achievement of the five masteries. The extension of
the sign means extending the size of the counterpart sign, the object of
the jhana. Beginning with a small area, the size of one or two fingers,
the meditator gradually learns to broaden the sign until the mental
image can be made to cover the world-sphere or even beyond (Vism.
152-53; PP.158-59).

Following this the meditator should try to acquire five kinds of
mastery over the jhana: mastery in adverting, in attaining, in
resolving, in emerging and in reviewing.[16]
Mastery in adverting is the ability to advert to the jhana factors one
by one after emerging from the jhana, wherever he wants, whenever he
wants, and for as long as he wants. Mastery in attaining is the ability
to enter upon jhana quickly, mastery in resolving the ability to remain
in the jhana for exactly the pre-determined length of time, mastery in
emerging the ability to emerge from jhana quickly without difficulty,
and mastery in reviewing the ability to review the jhana and its factors
with retrospective knowledge immediately after adverting to them. When
the meditator has achieved this fivefold mastery, then he is ready to
strive for the second jhana.

4. The Higher Jhanas  

In this chapter we will survey the higher states of jhana. First we
will discuss the remaining three jhanas of the fine-material sphere,
using the descriptive formulas of the suttas as our starting point and
the later literature as our source for the methods of practice that lead
to these attainments. Following this we will consider the four
meditative states that pertain to the immaterial sphere, which come to
be called the immaterial jhanas. Our examination will bring out the
dynamic character of the process by which the jhanas are successively
achieved. The attainment of the higher jhanas of the fine-material
sphere, we will see, involves the successive elimination of the grosser
factors and the bringing to prominence of the subtler ones, the
attainment of the formless jhanas the replacement of grosser objects
with successively more refined objects. From our study it will become
clear that the jhanas link together in a graded sequence of development
in which the lower serves as basis for the higher and the higher
intensifies and purifies states already present in the lower. We will
end the chapter with a brief look at the connection between the jhanas
and the Buddhist teaching of rebirth.

The Higher Fine-material Jhanas  

The formula for the attainment of the second jhana runs as follows:

With the subsiding of applied thought and sustained thought he enters
and dwells in the second jhana, which has internal confidence and
unification of mind, is without applied thought and sustained thought,
and is filled with rapture and happiness born of concentration (M.i,181;
Vbh. 245)

The second jhana, like the first, is attained by eliminating the
factors to be abandoned and by developing the factors of possession. In
this case however, the factors to be abandoned are the two initial
factors of the first jhana itself, applied thought and sustained
thought; the factors of possession are the three remaining jhana
factors, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness. Hence the formula
begins “with the subsiding of applied thought and sustained thought,”
and then mentions the jhana’s positive endowments.

After achieving the five kinds of mastery over the first jhana, a
meditator who wishes to reach the second jhana should enter the first
jhana and contemplate its defects. These are twofold: one, which might
be called the defect of proximate corruption, is the nearness of the
five hindrances, against which the first jhana provides only a
relatively mild safeguard; the other defect, inherent to the first
jhana, is its inclusion of applied and sustained thought, which now
appear as gross, even as impediments needing to be eliminated to attain
the more peaceful and subtle second jhana.

By reflecting upon the second jhana as more tranquil and sublime than
the first, the meditator ends his attachment to the first jhana and
engages in renewed striving with the aim of reaching the higher stage.
He directs his mind to his meditation subject — which must be one
capable of inducing the higher jhanas such as a kasina or the breath —
and resolves to overcome applied and sustained thought. When his
practice comes to maturity the two kinds of thought subside and the
second jhana arises. In the second jhana only three of the original five
jhana factors remain — rapture, happiness, and one-pointedness.
Moreover, with the elimination of the two grosser factors these have
acquired a subtler and more peaceful tone.[17]

Besides the main jhana factors, the canonical formula includes
several other states in its description of the second jhana. “Internal
confidence” (ajjhattamsampasadanam), conveys the twofold meaning
of faith and tranquillity. In the first jhana the meditator’s faith
lacked full clarity and serenity due to “the disturbance created by
applied and sustained thought, like water ruffled by ripples and
wavelets” (Vism. 157; PP.163). But when applied and sustained thought
subside, the mind becomes very peaceful and the meditator’s faith
acquires fuller confidence.

The formula also mentions unification of mind (cetaso ekodibhavam),
which is identified with one-pointedness or concentration. Though
present in the first jhana, concentration only gains special mention in
connection with the second jhana since it is here that it acquires
eminence. In the first jhana concentration was still imperfect, being
subject to the disturbing influence of applied and sustained thought.
For the same reason this jhana, along with its constituent rapture and
happiness, is said to be born of concentration (samadhijam): “It
is only this concentration that is quite worthy to be called
‘concentration’ because of its complete confidence and extreme
immobility due to absence of disturbance by applied and sustained
thought” (Vism.158; PP.164).

To attain the third jhana the meditator must use the same
method he used to ascend from the first jhana to the second. He must
master the second jhana in the five ways, enter and emerge from it, and
reflect upon its defects. In this case the defect of proximate
corruption is the nearness of applied and sustained thought, which
threaten to disrupt the serenity of the second jhana; its inherent
defect is the presence of rapture, which now appears as a gross factor
that should be discarded. Aware of the imperfections in the second
jhana, the meditator cultivates indifference towards it and aspires
instead for the peace and sublimity of the third jhana, towards the
attainment of which he now directs his efforts. When his practice
matures he enters the third jhana, which has the two jhana factors that
remain when the rapture disappears, happiness and one-pointedness, and
which the suttas describe as follows:

With the fading away of rapture, he dwells in equanimity, mindful and
discerning; and he experiences in his own person that happiness of
which the noble ones say: ‘Happily lives he who is equanimous and
mindful’ — thus he enters and dwells in the third jhana. (M.i,182;

The formula indicates that the third jhana contains, besides its two
defining factors, three additional components not included among the
jhana factors: equanimity, mindfulness and discernment. Equanimity is
mentioned twice. The Pali word for equanimity, upekkha, occurs in
the texts with a wide range of meanings, the most important being
neutral feeling — that is, feeling which is neither painful nor pleasant
— and the mental quality of inner balance or equipoise called “specific
neutrality” (tatramajjhattata — see Vism.161; PP.167). The
equanimity referred to in the formula is a mode of specific neutrality
which belongs to the aggregate of mental formations (sankharakkhandha)
and thus should not be confused with equanimity as neutral feeling.
Though the two are often associated, each can exist independently of the
other, and in the third jhana equanimity as specific neutrality
co-exists with happiness or pleasant feeling.

The meditator in third jhana is also said to be mindful and
discerning, which points to another pair of frequently conjoined mental
functions. Mindfulness (sati), in this context, means the
remembrance of the meditation object, the constant bearing of the object
in mind without allowing it to float away. Discernment (sampajañña)
is an aspect of wisdom or understanding which scrutinizes the object
and grasps its nature free from delusion. Though these two factors were
already present even in the first two jhanas, they are first mentioned
only in connection with the third since it is here that their efficacy
becomes manifest. The two are needed particularly to avoid a return to
rapture. Just as a suckling calf, removed from its mother and left
unguarded, again approaches the mother, so the happiness of jhana tends
to veer towards rapture, its natural partner, if unguarded by
mindfulness and discernment (Dhs. A.219). To prevent this and the
consequent loss of the third jhana is the task of mindfulness and

The attainment of the fourth jhana commences with the
aforesaid procedure. In this case the meditator sees that the third
jhana is threatened by the proximity of rapture, which is ever ready to
swell up again due to its natural affinity with happiness; he also sees
that it is inherently defective due to the presence of happiness, a
gross factor which provides fuel for clinging. He then contemplates the
state where equanimous feeling and one-pointedness subsist together —
the fourth jhana — as far more peaceful and secure than anything he has
so far experienced, and therefore as far more desirable. Taking as his
object the same counterpart sign he took for the earlier jhana, he
strengthens his efforts in concentration for the purpose of abandoning
the gross factor of happiness and entering the higher jhana. When his
practice matures the mind enters absorption into the fourth jhana:

With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous
disappearance of joy and grief, he enters and dwells in the fourth
jhana, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and has purity of mindfulness
due to equanimity. (M.i,182; Vbh.245)

The first part of this formula specifies the conditions for the
attainment of this jhana — also called the neither-painful-nor-pleasant
liberation of mind (M.i, 296) — to be the abandoning of four kinds of
feeling incompatible with it, the first two signifying bodily feelings,
the latter two the corresponding mental feelings. The formula also
introduces several new terms and phrases which have not been encountered
previously. First, it mentions a new feeling, neither-pain-nor-pleasure
(adukkhamasukha), which remains after the other four feelings
have subsided. This kind of feeling also called equanimous or neutral
feeling, replaces happiness as the concomitant feeling of the jhana and
also figures as one of the jhana factors. Thus this attainment has two
jhana factors: neutral feeling and one-pointedness of mind. Previously
the ascent from one jhana to the next was marked by the progressive
elimination of the coarser jhana factors, but none were added to replace
those which were excluded. But now, in the move from the third to the
fourth jhana, a substitution occurs, neutral feeling moving in to take
the place of happiness.

In addition we also find a new phrase composed of familiar terms, “purity of mindfulness due to equanimity” (upekkhasatiparisuddhi).
The Vibhanga explains: “This mindfulness is cleared, purified,
clarified by equanimity” (Vbh. 261), and Buddhaghosa adds: “for the
mindfulness in this jhana is quite purified, and its purification is
effected by equanimity, not by anything else” (Vism.167; PP.174). The
equanimity which purifies the mindfulness is not neutral feeling, as
might be supposed, but specific neutrality, the sublime impartiality
free from attachment and aversion, which also pertains to this jhana.
Though both specific neutrality and mindfulness were present in the
lower three jhanas, none among these is said to have “purity of
mindfulness due to equanimity.” The reason is that in the lower jhanas
the equanimity present was not purified itself, being overshadowed by
opposing states and lacking association with equanimous feeling. It is
like a crescent moon which exists by day but cannot be seen because of
the sunlight and the bright sky. But in the fourth jhana, where
equanimity gains the support of equanimous feeling, it shines forth like
the crescent moon at night and purifies mindfulness and the other
associated states (Vism. 169; PP.175).

The Immaterial Jhanas  

Beyond the four jhanas lie four higher attainments in the scale of
concentration, referred to in the suttas as the “peaceful immaterial
liberations transcending material form” (santa vimokkha atikammarupe aruppa,
M.i,33). In the commentaries they are also called the immaterial
jhanas, and while this expression is not found in the suttas it seems
appropriate in so far as these states correspond to jhanic levels of
consciousness and continue the same process of mental unification
initiated by the original four jhanas, now sometimes called the
fine-material jhanas. The immaterial jhanas are designated, not by
numerical names like their predecessors, but by the names of their
objective spheres: the base of boundless space, the base of boundless
consciousness, the base of nothingness, and the base of
neither-perception-nor-non-perception.[18] They receive the designation “immaterial” or ” formless” (arupa)
because they are achieved by surmounting all perceptions of material
form, including the subtle form of the counterpart sign which served as
the object of the previous jhanas, and because they are the subjective
correlates of the immaterial planes of existence.

Like the fine-material jhanas follow a fixed sequence and must be
attained in the order in which they are presented. That is, the
meditator who wishes to achieve the immaterial jhanas must begin with
the base of boundless space and then proceed step by step up to the base
of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. However, an important
difference separates the modes of progress in the two cases. In the case
of the fine-material jhanas, the ascent from one jhana to another
involves a surmounting of jhana factors. To rise from the first jhana to
the second the meditator must eliminate applied thought and sustained
thought, to rise from the second to the third he must overcome rapture,
and to rise from the third to the fourth he must replace pleasant with
neutral feeling. Thus progress involves a reduction and refinement of
the jhana factors, from the initial five to the culmination in
one-pointedness and neutral feeling.

Once the fourth jhana is reached the jhana factors remain constant,
and in higher ascent to the immaterial attainments there is no further
elimination of jhana factors. For this reason the formless jhanas, when
classified from the perspective of their factorial constitution as is
done in the Abhidhamma, are considered modes of the fourth jhana. They
are all two-factored jhanas, constituted by one-pointedness and
equanimous feeling.

Rather than being determined by a surmounting of factors, the order
of the immaterial jhanas is determined by a surmounting of objects.
Whereas for the lower jhanas the object can remain constant but the
factors must be changed, for the immaterial jhanas the factors remain
constant while the objects change. The base of boundless space
eliminates the kasina object of the fourth jhana, the base of boundless
consciousness surmounts the object of the base of boundless space, the
base of nothingness surmounts the object of base of boundless
consciousness, and the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception
surmounts the objects the object of the base of nothingness.

Because the objects become progressively more subtle at each level,
the jhana factors of equanimous feeling and one-pointedness, while
remaining constant in nature throughout, become correspondingly more
refined in quality. Buddhaghosa illustrates this with a simile of four
pieces of cloth of the same measurements, spun by the same person, yet
made of thick, thin, thinner and very thin thread respectively (Vism.
339; PP.369). Also, whereas the four lower jhanas can each take a
variety of objects — the ten kasinas, the in-and-out breath, etc. — and
do not stand in any integral relation to these objects, the four
immaterial jhanas each take a single object inseparably related to the
attainment itself. The first is attained solely with the base of
boundless space as object, the second with the base of boundless
consciousness, and so forth.

The motivation which initially leads a meditator to seek the
immaterial attainments is a clear recognition of the dangers inherent in
material existence: it is in virtue of matter that injuries and death
by weapons and knives occur that one is afflicted with diseases, subject
of hunger and thirst, while none of this takes place on the immaterial
planes of existence (M.i,410). Wishing to escape these dangers by taking
rebirth in the immaterial planes, the meditator must first attain the
four fine-material jhanas and master the fourth jhana with any kasina as
object except the omitted space kasina. By this much the meditator has
risen above gross matter, but he still has not transcended the subtle
material form comprised by the luminous counterpart sign which is the
object of his jhana. To reach the formless attainments the meditator,
after emerging from the fourth jhana, must consider that even that
jhana, as refined as it is, still has an object consisting in material
form and thus is distantly connected with gross matter; moreover, it is
close to happiness, a factor of the third jhana, and is far coarser than
the immaterial states. The meditator sees the base of boundless space,
the first immaterial jhana, as more peaceful and sublime than the fourth
fine-material jhana and as more safely removed from materiality.

Following these preparatory reflections, the meditator enters the
fourth jhana based on a kasina object and extends the counterpart sign
of the kasina “to the limit of the world-sphere, or as far as he likes.”
Then, after emerging from the fourth jhana, he must remove the kasina
by attending exclusively to the space it has been made to cover without
attending to the kasina itself. Taking as his object the space left
after the removal of the kasina, the meditator adverts to it as
“boundless space” or simply as “space, space,” striking at it with
applied and sustained thought. As he cultivates this practice over and
over, eventually the consciousness pertaining to the base of boundless
space arises with boundless space as its object (Vism. 327-28;

A meditator who has gained mastery over the base of boundless space,
wishing to attain as well the second immaterial jhana, must reflect upon
the two defects of the first attainment which are its proximity to the
fine-material jhanas and its grossness compared to the base of boundless
consciousness. Having in this way developed indifferent to the lower
attainment, he must next enter and emerge from the base of boundless
space and then fix his attention upon the consciousness that occurred
there pervading the boundless space. Since the space taken as the object
by the first formless jhana was boundless, the consciousness of that
space also involves an aspect of boundlessness, and it is to this
boundless consciousness that the aspirant for the next attainment
adverts. He is not to attend to it merely as boundless, but as
“boundless consciousness” or simply as “consciousness.” He continues to
cultivate this sign again and again until the consciousness belonging to
the base of boundless consciousness arises in absorption taking as its
object the boundless consciousness pertaining to the first immaterial
state (Vism. 331-32; PP.360-61).

To attain the next formless state, the base of nothingness, the
meditator who has mastered the base of boundless consciousness must
contemplate its defects in the same twofold manner and advert to the
superior peacefulness of the base of nothingness. Without giving any
more attention to the base of boundless consciousness, he should “give
attention to the present non-existence, voidness, secluded aspect of
that same past consciousness belonging to the base consisting of
boundless space” (Vism. 333; PP.362). In other words, the meditator is
to focus upon the present absence or non-existence of the consciousness
belonging to the base of boundless space, adverting to it over and over
thus: “There is not, there is not” or “void, void”. When his efforts
fructify there arises in absorption a consciousness belonging to the
base of nothingness, with the non-existence of the consciousness of
boundless space as its object. Whereas the second immaterial state
relates to the consciousness of boundless space positively, by focusing
upon the content of that consciousness and appropriating its
boundlessness, the third immaterial state relates to it negatively, by
excluding that consciousness from awareness and making the absence or
present non-existence of that consciousness its object.

The fourth and final immaterial jhana, the base of
neither-perception-nor-non-perception, is reached through the same
preliminary procedure. The meditator can also reflect upon the
unsatisfactoriness of perception, thinking: “Perception is a disease,
perception is a boil, perception is a dart… this is peaceful, this is
sublime, that is to say, neither-perception-nor-non-perception”
(M.ii,231). In this way he ends his attachment to the base of
nothingness and strengthens his resolve to attain the next higher stage.
He then adverts to the four mental aggregates that constitute the
attainment of the base of nothingness — its feeling, perception, mental
formations and consciousness — contemplating them as “peaceful,
peaceful,” reviewing that base and striking at it with applied and
sustained thought. As he does so the hindrances are suppressed, the mind
passes through access and enters the base of

This jhana receives its name because, on the one hand, it lacks gross
perception with its function of clearly discerning objects, and thus
cannot be said to have perception; on the other, it retains a very
subtle perception, and thus cannot be said to be without perception.
Because all the mental functions are here reduced to the finest and most
subtle level, this jhana is also named the attainment with residual
formations. At this level the mind has reached the highest possible
development in the direction of pure serenity. It has attained the most
intense degree of concentration, becoming so refined that consciousness
can no longer be described in terms of existence or non-existence. Yet
even this attainment, from the Buddhist point of view, is still a
mundane state which must finally give way to insight that alone leads to
true liberation.

The Jhanas and Rebirth  

Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings in whom ignorance and
craving still linger are subject to rebirth following death. Their mode
of rebirth is determined by their kamma, their volitional action,
wholesome kamma issuing in a good rebirth and unwholesome kamma in a bad
rebirth. As a kind of wholesome kamma the attainment of jhana can play a
key role in the rebirth process, being considered a weighty good kamma
which takes precedence over other lesser kammas in determining the
future rebirth of the person who attains it.

Buddhist cosmology groups the numerous planes of existence into which
rebirth takes place into three broad spheres each of which comprises a
number of subsidiary planes. The sense-sphere (kamadhatu) is the field of rebirth for evil deeds and for meritorious deeds falling short of the jhanas; the fine-material sphere (rupadhatu), the field of rebirth for the fine-material jhanas; and the immaterial sphere (arupadhatu), the field of rebirth for the immaterial jhanas.

An unwholesome kamma, should it become determinative of rebirth, will
lead to a new existence in one of the four planes of misery belonging
to the sense-sphere: the hells, the animal kingdom, the sphere of
afflicted spirits, or the host of titans. A wholesome kamma of a
subjhanic type produces rebirth in one of the seven happy planes in the
sense-sphere, the human world or the six heavenly worlds.

Above the sense-sphere realms are the fine-material realms, into
which rebirth is gained only through the attainment of the fine-material
jhanas. The sixteen realms in this sphere are hierarchically ordered in
correlation with the four jhanas. Those who have practiced the first
jhana to a minor degree are reborn in the Realm of the Retinue of
Brahma, to a moderate degree in the Realm of the Ministers of Brahma,
and to a superior degree in the Realm of the Great Brahma.[19]
Similarly, practicing the second jhana to a minor degree brings rebirth
in the Realm of Minor Luster, to a moderate degree in the Realm of
Infinite Luster, and to a superior degree the Realm of Radiant Luster.[20]
Again, practicing the third jhana to a minor degree brings rebirth in
the Realm of Minor Aura, to a moderate degree in the Realm of Infinite
Aura, and to a superior degree in the Realm of Steady Aura.[21]

Corresponding to the fourth jhana there are seven realms: the Realm
of Great Reward, the Realm of Non-percipient Beings, and the five Pure
With this jhana the rebirth pattern deviates from the former one. It
seems that all beings who practice the fourth jhana of the mundane level
without reaching any supramundane attainment are reborn in the realm of
Great Reward. There is no differentiation by way of inferior, moderate
or superior grades of development. The Realm of Non-percipient Beings is
reached by those who, after attaining the fourth jhana, then use the
power of their meditation to take rebirth with only material bodies;
they do not acquire consciousness again until they pass away from this
realm. The five Pure Abodes are open only to non-returners (anagamis),
noble disciples at the penultimate stage of liberation who have
eradicated the fetters binding them to the sense-sphere and thence
automatically take rebirth in higher realms, where they attain
arahatship and reach final deliverance.

Beyond the fine-material sphere lie the immaterial realms, which are
four in number — the base of boundless space, the base of boundless
consciousness, the base of nothingness, and the base of
neither-perception-nor-non-perception. As should be evident, these are
realms of rebirth for those who, without having broken the fetters that
bind them to samsara, achieve and master one or another of the four
immaterial jhanas. Those meditators who have mastery over a formless
attainment at the time of death take rebirth in the appropriate plane,
where they abide until the kammic force of the jhana is exhausted. Then
they pass away, to take rebirth in some other realm as determined by
their accumulated kamma.[23]

5. Jhanas and the Supramundane  

The Way of Wisdom  

The goal of the Buddhist path, complete and permanent liberation from
suffering, is to be achieved by practicing the full threefold
discipline of morality (sila), concentration (samadhi), and wisdom
(pañña). The mundane jhanas, comprising the four fine-material jhanas
and the four immaterial jhanas, pertain to the stage of concentration,
which they fulfill to an eminent degree. However, taken by themselves,
these states do not ensure complete deliverance, for they are incapable
of cutting off the roots of suffering. The Buddha teaches that the cause
of suffering, the driving power behind the cycle of rebirths, is the
defilements with their three unwholesome roots — greed, hatred and
delusion. Concentration of the absorption level, no matter to what
heights it is pursued, only suppresses the defilements, but cannot
destroy their latent seeds. Thence bare mundane jhana, even when
sustained, cannot by itself terminate the cycle of rebirths. To the
contrary, it may even perpetuate the round. For if any fine-material or
immaterial jhana is held to with clinging, it will bring about a rebirth
in that particular plane of existence corresponding to its own kammic
potency, which can then be followed by rebirth in some lower realm.

What is required to achieve complete deliverance from the cycle of
rebirths is the eradication of the defilements. Since the most basic
defilement is ignorance (avijja), the key to liberation lies in
developing its direct opposite, namely wisdom (pañña).

Since wisdom presupposes a certain proficiency in concentration it is
inevitable that jhana comes to claim a place in its development. This
place, however, is not fixed and invariable, but as we will see allows
for differences depending on the individual meditator’s disposition.

Fundamental to the discussion in this chapter is a distinction
between two terms crucial to Theravada philosophical exposition,
“mundane” (lokiya) and “supramundane” (lokuttara). The term “mundane” applies to all phenomena comprised in the world (loka)
— to subtle states of consciousness as well as matter, to virtue as
well as evil, to meditative attainments as well as sensual engrossments.
The term “supramundane,” in contrast, applies exclusively to that which
transcends the world, that is the nine supramundane states: Nibbana,
the four noble paths (magga) leading to Nibbana, and their corresponding fruits (phala) which experience the bliss of Nibbana.

Wisdom has the specific characteristic of penetrating the true nature
of phenomena. It penetrates the particular and general features of
things through direct cognition rather than discursive thought. Its
function is “to abolish the darkness of delusion which conceals the
individual essences of states” and its manifestation is “non-delusion.”
Since the Buddha says that one whose mind is concentrated knows and sees
things as they are, the proximate cause of wisdom is concentration
(Vism. 438; PP.481).

The wisdom instrumental in attaining liberation is divided into two principal types: insight knowledge (vipassanañana) and the knowledge pertaining to the supramundane paths (maggañana).
The first is the direct penetration of the three characteristics of
conditioned phenomena — impermanence, suffering and non-self.[24] It takes as its objective sphere the five aggregates (pañcakkhandha)
— material form, feeling perception, mental formations and
consciousness. Because insight knowledge takes the world of conditioned
formations as its object, it is regarded as a mundane form of wisdom.
Insight knowledge does not itself directly eradicate the defilements,
but serves to prepare the way for the second type of wisdom, the wisdom
of the supramundane paths, which emerges when insight has been brought
to its climax. The wisdom of the path, occurring in four distinct stages
(to be discussed below ), simultaneously realizes Nibbana, fathoms the
Four Noble Truths, and cuts off the defilements. This wisdom is called
“supramundane” because it rises up from the world of the five aggregates
to realize the state transcendent to the world, Nibbana.

The Buddhist disciple, striving for deliverance, begins the
development of wisdom by first securely establishing its roots —
purified moral discipline and concentration. He then learns and masters
the basic material upon which wisdom is to work — the aggregates,
elements, sense bases, dependent arising, the Four Noble Truths, etc. He
commences the actual practice of wisdom by cultivating insight into the
impermanence, suffering and non-self aspect of the five aggregates.
When this insight reaches its apex it issues in supramundane wisdom, the
right view factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, which turns from
conditioned formations to the unconditioned Nibbana and thereby
eradicates the defilements.

The Two Vehicles  

The Theravada tradition recognizes two alternative approaches to the
development of wisdom, between which practitioners are free to choose
according to their aptitude and propensity. These two approaches are the
vehicle of serenity (samathayana) and the vehicle of insight (vipassanayana). The meditators who follow them are called, respectively, the samathayanika, “one who makes serenity his vehicle,” and the vipassanayanika,
“one who makes insight his vehicle.” Since both vehicles, despite their
names, are approaches to developing insight, to prevent
misunderstanding the latter type of meditator is sometimes called a suddhavipassanayanika, “one who makes bare insight his vehicle,” or a sukkhavipassaka,
“a dry-insight worker.” Though all three terms appear initially in the
commentaries rather than in the suttas, the recognition of the two
vehicles seems implicit in a number of canonical passages.

The samathayanika is a meditator who first attains access
concentration or one of the eight mundane jhanas, then emerges and uses
his attainment as a basis for cultivating insight until he arrives at
the supramundane path. In contrast, the vipassanayanika does not
attain mundane jhana prior to practicing insight contemplation, or if he
does, does not use it as an instrument for cultivating insight.
Instead, without entering and emerging from jhana, he proceeds directly
to insight contemplation on mental and material phenomena and by means
of this bare insight he reaches the noble path. For both kinds of
meditator the experience of the path in any of its four stages always
occurs at a level of jhanic intensity and thus necessarily includes
supramundane jhana under the heading of right concentration (samma samadhi), the eighth factor of the Noble Eightfold Path.

The classical source for the distinction between the two vehicles of serenity and insight is the Visuddhimagga
where it is explained that when a meditator begins the development of
wisdom “if firstly, his vehicle is serenity, [he] should emerge from any
fine-material or immaterial jhana except the base consisting of
neither-perception-nor-non-perception, and he should discern, according
to characteristic, function, etc. the jhana factors consisting of
applied thought, etc. and the states associated with them” (Vism. 557;
PP679-80). Other commentarial passages allow access concentration to
suffice for the vehicle of serenity, but the last immaterial jhana is
excluded because its factors are too subtle to be discerned. The
meditator whose vehicle is pure insight, on the other hand, is advised
to start directly by discerning material and mental phenomena, beginning
with the four elements, without utilizing a jhana for this purpose
(Vism. 558; PP.680). Thus the samathayanika first attains access
concentration or mundane jhana and then develops insight knowledge, by
means of which he reaches the supramundane path containing wisdom under
the heading of right view, and supramundane jhana under the heading of
right concentration. The vipassanayanika, in contrast, skips over
mundane jhana and goes directly into insight contemplation. When he
reaches the end of the progression of insight knowledge he arrives at
the supramundane path which, as in the previous case, brings together
wisdom with supramundane jhana. This jhana counts as his accomplishment
of serenity.

For a meditator following the vehicle of serenity the attainment of
jhana fulfills two functions: first, it produces a basis of mental
purity and inner collectedness needed for undertaking the work of
insight contemplation; and second, it serves as an object to be examined
with insight in order to discern the three characteristics of
impermanence, suffering and non-self. Jhana accomplishes the first
function by providing a powerful instrument for overcoming the five
hindrances. As we have seen, for wisdom to arise the mind must first be
concentrated well, and to be concentrated well it must be freed from the
hindrances, a task accomplished pre-eminently by the attainment of
jhana. Though access concentration will keep the hindrances at bay,
jhana will ensure that they are removed to a much safer distance.

In their capacity for producing concentration the jhanas are called the basis (pada)
for insight, and that particular jhana a meditator enters and emerges
from before commencing his practice of insight is designated his padakajjhana,
the basic or foundational jhana. Insight cannot be practiced while
absorbed in jhana, since insight meditation requires investigation and
observation, which are impossible when the mind is immersed in
one-pointed absorption. But after emerging from the jhana the mind is
cleared of the hindrances, and the stillness and clarity that then
result conduce to precise, penetrating insight.

The jhanas also enter into the samathayanika’s practice in
second capacity, that is, as objects for scrutinization by insight. The
practice of insight consists essentially in the examination of mental
and physical phenomena to discover their marks of impermanence,
suffering and non-self. The jhanas a meditator attains provide him with a
readily available and strikingly clear object in which to seek out the
three characteristics. After emerging from a jhana the meditator will
proceed to examine the jhanic consciousness and to discern the way it
exemplifies the three universal marks. This process is called sammasanañana, “comprehension knowledge,” and the jhana subject to such treatment is termed sammasitajjhana,
“the comprehended jhana” (Vism. 607-11; PP.706-10). Though the basic
jhana and the comprehended jhana will often be the same, the two do not
necessarily coincide. A meditator cannot practice comprehension on a
jhana higher than he is capable of attaining, but one who uses a higher
jhana as his padakajjhana can still practice insight
comprehension on a lower jhana which he has previously attained and
mastered. The admitted difference between the padakajjhana and the sammasitajjhana leads to discrepant theories about the supramundane concentration of the noble path, as we will see.

Whereas the sequence of training undertaken by the samathayanika meditator is unproblematic, the vipassanayanika’s
approach presents the difficulty of accounting for the concentration he
uses to provide a basis for insight. Concentration is needed in order
to see and know things as they are, but without access concentration or
jhana, what concentration can he use? The solution to this problem is
found in a type of concentration distinct from the access and absorption
concentrations pertaining to the vehicle of serenity, called “momentary
concentration” (khanika samadhi). Despite its name, momentary
concentration does not signify a single moment of concentration amidst a
current of distracted thoughts, but a dynamic concentration which flows
from object to object in the ever-changing flux of phenomena, retaining
a constant degree of intensity and collectedness sufficient to purify
the mind of the hindrances. Momentary concentration arises in the samathayanika simultaneously with his post-jhanic attainment of insight, but for the vipassanayanika
it develops naturally and spontaneously in the course of his insight
practice without his having to fix the mind upon a single exclusive
object. Thus the follower of the vehicle of insight does not omit
concentration altogether from his training, but develops it in a
different manner from the practitioner of serenity. Without gaining
jhana he goes directly into contemplation on the five aggregates and by
observing them constantly from moment to moment acquires momentary
concentration as an accompaniment of his investigations. This momentary
concentration fulfills the same function as the basic jhana of the
serenity vehicle, providing the foundation of mental clarity needed for
insight to emerge.

Supramundane Jhana  

The climax in the development of insight is the attainment of the
supramundane paths and fruits. Each path is a momentary peak experience
directly apprehending Nibbana and permanently cutting off certain
defilements. These defilements are generally grouped into a set of ten
“fetters” (samyojana) which keep beings chained to the round of rebirths. The first path, called the path of stream-entry (sotapatti)
because it marks the entry into the stream of the Dhamma, eradicates
the first three fetters — The false view of self, doubt, and clinging to
rites and rituals. The disciple who has reached stream-entry has
limited his future births to a maximum of seven in the happy realms of
the human and heavenly worlds, after which he will attain final
deliverance. But an ardent disciple may progress to still higher stages
in the same life in which he reaches stream-entry, by making an
aspiration for the next higher path and again undertaking the
development of insight with the aim of reaching that path.

The next supramundane path is that of the once-returner (sakadagami).
This path does not eradicate any fetters completely, but it greatly
attenuates sensual desire and ill will. The once-returner is so called
because he is bound to make an end of suffering after returning to this
world only one more time. The third path, that of the non-returner (anagami)
utterly destroys the sensual desire and ill will weakened by the
preceding path. The non-returner is assured that he will never again
take rebirth in the sense-sphere; if he does not penetrate higher he
will be reborn spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and there reach final
Nibbana. The highest path, the path of arahatship, eradicate the
remaining five fetters — desire for existence in the fine-material and
immaterial spheres, conceit, restlessness and ignorance. The arahant has
completed the development of the entire path taught by the Buddha; he
has reached the end of rebirths and can sound his “lion’s roar”:
“Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what was to be done
has been done, there is nothing further beyond this.”

Each path is followed immediately by the supramundane experience of
fruition, which results from the path, comes in the same four graded
stages, and shares the path’s world-transcending character. But whereas
the path performs the active function of cutting off defilements,
fruition simply enjoys the bliss and peace that result when the path has
completed its task. Also, where the path is limited to a single moment
of consciousness, the fruition that follows immediately on the path
endures for two or three moments. And while each of the four paths
occurs only once and can never be repeated, fruition remains accessible
to the noble disciple at the appropriate level. He can resort to it as a
special meditative state called fruition attainment (phalasamapatti) for the purpose of experiencing nibbanic bliss here and now (Vism. 699-702; PP.819-24).

The supramundane paths and fruits always arise as states of jhanic
consciousness. They occur as states of jhana because they contain within
themselves the jhana factors elevated to an intensity corresponding to
that of the jhana factors in the mundane jhanas. Since they possess the
jhana factors these states are able to fix upon their object with the
force of full absorption. Thence, taking the absorptive force of the
jhana factors as the criterion, the paths and fruits may be reckoned as
belonging to either the first, second, third or fourth jhana of the
fourfold scheme, or to the first, second, third, fourth or fifth jhana
of the fivefold scheme.

The basis for the recognition of a supramundane type of jhana goes
back to the suttas, especially to the section of “The Great Discourse on
the Foundations of Mindfulness” where the Buddha defines right
concentration of the Noble Eightfold Path by the standard formula for
the four jhanas (D.ii,313). However, it is in the Abhidhamma that the
connection between the jhanas, paths and fruits comes to be worked out
with great intricacy of detail. The Dhammasangani, in its section
on states of consciousness, expounds each of the path and fruition
states of consciousness as occasions, first, of one or another of the
four jhanas in the fourfold scheme, and then again as occasions of one
or another of the five jhanas in the fivefold scheme (Dhs.74-86).
Standard Abhidhammic exposition, as formalized in the synoptical manuals
of Abhidhamma, employs the fivefold scheme and brings each of the paths
and fruits into connection with each of the five jhanas. In this way
the eight types of supramundane consciousness — the path and fruition
consciousness of stream-entry, the once-returner, the non-returner and
arahatship — proliferate to forty types of supramundane consciousness,
since any path or fruit can occur at the level of any of the five
jhanas. It should be noted, however, that there are no paths and fruits
conjoined with the immaterial attainments, the reason being that
supramundane jhana is presented solely from the standpoint of its
factorial constitution, which for the immaterial attainment and the
fifth jhana is identical — equanimity and one-pointedness.

The fullest treatment of the supramundane jhanas in the authoritative Pali literature can be found in the Dhammasangani read in conjunction with its commentary, the Atthasalini. The Dhammasangani opens its analysis of the first wholesome supramundane consciousness with the words:

On the occasion when one develops supramundane jhana which is
emancipating, leading to the demolition (of existence), for the
abandonment of views, for reaching the first plane, secluded from sense
pleasures… one enters and dwells in the first jhana. (Dhs. 72)

The Atthasalini explains the word lokuttara, which we
have been translating “supramundane,” as meaning “it crosses over the
world, it transcends the world, it stands having surmounted and overcome
the world.” It glosses the phrase “one develops jhana” thus: “One
develops, produces, cultivates absorption jhana lasting for a single
thought-moment.” This gloss shows us two things about the consciousness
of the path: that it occurs as a jhana at the level of full absorption
and that this absorption of the path lasts for only a single
thought-moment. The word “emancipating” (niyyanika) is explained
to mean that this jhana “goes out” from the world, from the round of
existence, the phrase “leading to demolition” (apacayagami) that it demolishes and dismantles the process of rebirth (Dhs.A.259).

This last phrase points to a striking difference between mundane and supramundane jhana. The Dhammasangani’s exposition of the former begins: “On the occasion when one develops the path for rebirth in the fine-material sphere
one enters and dwells in the first jhana” [my italics]. Thus, with this
statement, mundane jhana is shown to sustain the round of rebirths; it
is a wholesome kamma leading to renewed existence. But the supramundane
jhana of the path does not promote the continuation of the round. To the
contrary, it brings about the round’s dismantling and demolition, as
the Atthasalini shows with an illustrative simile:

The wholesome states of the three planes are said to lead to
accumulation because they build up and increase death and rebirth in the
round. But not this. Just as when one man has built up a wall eighteen
feet high another might take a club and go along demolishing it, so this
goes along demolishing and dismantling the deaths and rebirths built up
by the wholesome kammas of the three planes by bringing about a
deficiency in their conditions. Thus it leads to demolition.[25]

Supramundane jhana is said to be cultivated “for the abandoning of
views.” This phrase points to the function of the first path, which is
to eradicate the fetters. The supramundane jhana of the first path cuts
off the fetter of personality view and all speculative views derived
from it. The Atthasalini points out that here we should
understand that it abandons not only wrong views but other unwholesome
states as well, namely, doubt, clinging to rites and rituals, and greed,
hatred and delusion strong enough to lead to the plane of misery. The
commentary explicates “for reaching the first plane” as meaning for
attaining the fruit of stream-entry.

Besides these, several other differences between mundane and
supramundane jhana may be briefly noted. First, with regard to their
object, the mundane jhanas have as object a conceptual entity such as
the counterpart sign of the kasinas or, in the case of the divine
abodes, sentient beings. In contrast, for the supramundane jhana of the
paths and fruits the object is exclusively Nibbana. With regard to their
predominant tone, in mundane jhana the element of serenity prevails,
while the supramundane jhana of the paths and fruits brings serenity and
insight into balance. Wisdom is present as right view and serenity as
right concentration, both function together in perfect harmony, neither
one exceeding the other.

This difference in prevailing tone leads into a difference in
function or activity between the two kinds of jhana. Both the mundane
and supramundane are jhanas in the sense of closely attending (upanijjhana),
but in the case of mundane jhana this close attention issues merely in
absorption into the object, an absorption that can only suppress the
defilement temporarily. In the supramundane jhana, particularly of the
four paths, the coupling of close attention with wisdom brings the
exercise of four functions at a single moment. These four functions each
apply to one of the Four Noble Truths. The path penetrates the First
Noble Truth by fully understanding suffering; it penetrates the Second
Noble Truth by abandoning craving, the origin of suffering; it
penetrates the Third Noble Truth by realizing Nibbana, the cessation of
suffering; and it penetrates the fourth Noble Truth by developing the
Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the end of suffering. Buddhaghosa
illustrates this with the simile of a lamp, which also performs four
tasks simultaneously: it burns the wick, dispels darkness, makes light
appear, and consumes oil (Vism.690; PP.808).

The Jhanic Level of the Path and Fruit  

When the paths and fruits are assigned to the level of the four or
five jhanas, the question arises as to what factor determines their
particular level of jhanic intensity. In other words, why do the path
and fruit arise for one meditator at the level of the first jhana, for
another at the level of the second jhana, and so forth? The commentaries
present three theories concerning the determination of the jhanic level
of the path, apparently deriving from the lineages of ancient teachers
(Vism. 666-67; PP.778-80. Dhs.A.271-74). The first holds that it is the
basic jhana, i.e., the jhana used as a basis for the insight leading to
emergence in immediate proximity to the path, that governs the
difference in the jhanic level of the path. A second theory says that
the difference is governed by the aggregates made the objects of insight
on the occasion of insight leading to emergence. A third theory holds
that it is the personal inclination of the meditator that governs the

According to the first theory the path arisen in a dry-insight
meditator who lacks jhana, and the path arisen in one who possesses a
jhana attainment but does not use it as a basis for insight, and the
path arisen by comprehending formations after emerging from the first
jhana, are all paths of the first jhana only. When the path is produced
after emerging from the second, third, fourth and fifth jhanas (of the
fivefold system) and using these as the basis for insight, then the path
pertains to the level of the jhana used as a basis — the second, third,
fourth of fifth. For a meditator using an immaterial jhana as basis the
path will be a fifth jhana path. Thus in this first theory, when
formations are comprehended by insight after emerging from a basic
jhana, then it is the jhana attainment emerged from at the point nearest
to the path, i.e., just before insight leading to emergence is reached,
that makes the path similar in nature to itself.

According to the second theory the path that arises is similar in
nature to the states which are being comprehended with insight at the
time insight leading to emergence occurs. Thus if the meditator, after
emerging from a meditative attainment, is comprehending with insight
sense-sphere phenomena or the constituents of the first jhana, then the
path produced will occur at the level of the first jhana. On this
theory, then, it is the comprehended jhana (sammasitajjhana) that
determines the jhanic quality of the path. The one qualification that
must be added is that a meditator cannot contemplate with insight a
jhana higher than he is capable of attaining.

According to the third theory, the path occurs at the level of
whichever jhana the meditator wishes — either at the level of the jhana
he has used as the basis for insight or at the level of the jhana he has
made the object of insight comprehension. In other words, the jhanic
quality of the path accords with his personal inclination. However, mere
wish alone is not sufficient. For the path to occur at the jhanic level
wished for, the mundane jhana must have been either made the basis for
insight or used as the object of insight comprehension.

The difference between the three theories can be understood through a simple example.[26]
If a meditator reaches the supramundane path by contemplating with
insight the first jhana after emerging from the fifth jhana, then
according to the first theory his path will belong to the fifth jhana,
while according to the second theory it will belong to the first jhana.
Thus these two theories are incompatible when a difference obtains
between basic jhana and comprehended jhana. But according to the third
theory, the path becomes of whichever jhana the meditator wishes, either
the first or the fifth. Thus this doctrine does not necessarily clash
with the other two.

Buddhaghosa himself does not make a decision among these three
theories. He only points out that in all three doctrines, beneath their
disagreements, there is the recognition that the insight immediately
preceding the supramundane path determines the jhanic character of the
path. For this insight is the proximate and the principal cause for the
arising of the path, so whether it be the insight leading to emergence
near the basic jhana or that occurring through the contemplated jhana or
that fixed by the meditator’s wish, it is in all cases this final phase
of insight that gives definition to the supramundane path. Since the
fruition that occurs immediately after the path has an identical
constitution to the path, its own supramundane jhana is determined by
the path. Thus a first jhana path produces a first jhana fruit, and so
forth for the remaining jhanas.

6. Jhana and the Noble Disciples  

All noble persons, as we saw, acquire supramundane jhana along with
their attainment of the noble paths and fruits. The noble ones at each
of the four stages of liberation, moreover, have access to the
supramundane jhana of their respective fruition attainments, from the
fruition attainment of stream-entry up to the fruition attainments of
arahatship. It remains problematic, however to what extent they also
enjoy the possession of mundane jhana. To determine an answer to this
question we will consult an early typology of seven types of noble
disciples, which provides a more psychologically oriented way of
classifying the eight noble individuals. A look at the explanation of
these seven types will enable us to see the range of jhanic attainment
reached by the noble disciples. On this basis we will proceed to assess
the place of mundane jhana in the early Buddhist picture of the arahant,
the perfected individual.

Seven Types of Disciples  

The sevenfold typology is originally found in the Kitagiri Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya (M.i,477-79) and is reformulated in the Puggalapaññatti
of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. This typology classifies the noble persons on
the paths and fruits into seven types: the faith-devotee (saddhanusari), the one liberated by faith (saddhavimutta), the body-witness (kayasakkhi), the one liberated in both ways (ubhatobhagavimutta), the truth-devotee (dhammanusari), the one attained to understanding (ditthipatta), and the one liberated by wisdom (paññavimutta).
The seven types may be divided into three general groups, each defined
by the predominance of a particular spiritual faculty, The first two
types are governed by a predominance of faith, the middle two by a
predominance of concentration, and the last three by a predominance of
wisdom. To this division, however, certain qualifications will have to
made as we go along.

[1] The faith-devotee is explained the sutta thus:

Herein, monks, some person has not reached with his own (mental) body
those peaceful immaterial deliverances transcending material form: nor
after seeing with wisdom, have his cankers been destroyed.[27]
But he has a certain degree of faith in the Tathagata, a certain degree
of devotion to him, and he has these qualities — the faculties of
faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. This person,
monks, is called a faith-devotee. (M.i,479)

The Puggalapaññatti (p 182) defines the faith-devotee from a
different angle as a disciple practicing for the fruit of stream-entry
in whom the faculty of faith is predominant and who develops the noble
path led by faith. It adds that when he is established in the fruit he
becomes one liberated by faith. Although the sutta excluded the
“peaceful immaterial attainments,” i.e., the four immaterial jhana, from
the faith-devotee’s equipment, this implies nothing with regard to his
achievement of the four lower mundane jhanas. It would seem that the
faith-devotee can have previously attained any of the four fine-material
jhanas before reaching the path, and can also be a dry-insight worker
bereft of mundane jhana.

[2] The one liberated by faith is strictly and
literally defined as a noble disciple at the six intermediate levels,
from the fruit of stream-entry through to the path of arahatship, who
lacks the immaterial jhanas and has a predominance of the faith faculty.

The Buddha explains the one liberated by faith as follows:

Herein, monks, some person has not reached with his own (mental) body
those peaceful immaterial deliverances transcending material form; but
having seen with wisdom, some of his cankers have been destroyed, and
his faith in the Tathagata is settled, deeply rooted, well established.
This person, monks, is called one liberated by faith. (M.i,478)

As in the case of the faith-devotee, the one liberated by faith,
while lacking the immaterial jhanas, may still be an obtainer of the
four mundane jhanas as well as a dry insight worker.

The Puggalapaññatti states (pp.184-85) that the person
liberated by faith is one who understands the Four Noble Truths, has
seen and verified by means of wisdom the teachings proclaimed by the
Tathagata, and having seen with wisdom has eliminated some of his
cankers. However, he has not done so as easily as the ditthipatta,
the person attained to understanding, whose progress is easier due to
his superior wisdom. The fact that the one liberated by faith has
destroyed only some of this cankers implies that he has advanced beyond
the first path but not yet reached the final fruit, the fruit of

[3] The body-witness is a noble disciple at the six
intermediate levels, from the fruit of stream-entry to the path of
arahatship, who has a predominance of the faculty of concentration and
can obtain the immaterial jhanas. The sutta explanation reads:

And what person, monks is a body-witness? Herein, monks, some person
has reached with his own (mental) body those peaceful immaterial
deliverances transcending material form, and having seen with wisdom,
some of his cankers having been destroyed. This person, monks, is called
a body-witness. (M.i,478)

The Puggalapaññatti (p. 184) offers a slight variation in this phrasing, substituting “the eight deliverances” (atthavimokkha) for the sutta’s “peaceful immaterial deliverances” (santa vimokkha aruppa).
These eight deliverances consist of three meditative attainments
pertaining to the fine-material sphere (inclusive of all four lower
jhanas), the four immaterial jhanas, and the cessation of perception and
feeling (saññavedayitanirodha) — the last a special attainment accessible only to those non-returners and arahats who have also mastered the eight jhanas.[29]
The statement of the Puggalapaññatti does not mean either that the
achievement of all eight deliverances is necessary to become a
body-witness or that the achievement of the three lower deliverances is
sufficient. What is both requisite and sufficient to qualify as a
body-witness is the partial destruction of defilements coupled with the
attainment of at least the lowest immaterial jhana. Thus the body
witness becomes fivefold by way of those who obtain any of the four
immaterial jhanas and the one who also obtains the cessation of
perception and feeling.

[4] One who is liberated in both ways is an arahant who
has completely destroyed the defilements and possesses the immaterial
attainments. The commentaries explain the name “liberated in both ways”
as meaning “through the immaterial attainment he is liberated from the
material body and through the path (of arahatship) he is liberated from
the mental body” (MA.ii,131). The sutta defines this type of disciple

And what person, monks, is liberated in both ways? Herein, monks,
someone has reached with his own (mental) body those peaceful immaterial
deliverances transcending material form, and having seen with wisdom,
his cankers are destroyed. This person, monks, is called liberated in
both ways. (M.i,477)

The Puggalapaññatti (p.184) gives basically the same formula
but replaces “immaterial deliverances” with “the eight deliverances.”
The same principle of interpretation that applied to the body-witness
applies here: the attainment of any immaterial jhana, even the lowest,
is sufficient to qualify a person as both-ways liberated. As the
commentary to the Visuddhimagga says: “One who has attained
arahatship after gaining even one [immaterial jhana] is liberated both
ways” (Vism.T.ii,466). This type becomes fivefold by way of those who
attain arahatship after emerging from one or another of the four
immaterial jhanas and the one who attains arahatship after emerging from
the attainment of cessation (MA:iii,131).

[5] The truth-devotee is a disciple on the first path in whom the faculty of wisdom is predominant. The Buddha explains the truth-devotee as follows:

Herein, monks, some person has not reached with his own (mental) body
those peaceful immaterial deliverances transcending material form; nor,
after seeing with wisdom, have his cankers been destroyed. But the
teachings proclaimed by the Tathagata are accepted by him through mere
reflection, and he has these qualities — the faculties of faith, energy,
mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. This person, monks, is called a
truth-devotee. (M.i,479)

The Puggalapaññatti (p.185) defines the truth-devotee as one
practicing for realization of the fruit of stream-entry in whom the
faculty of wisdom is predominant, and who develops the path led by
wisdom. It adds that when a truth-devotee is established in the fruit of
stream-entry he becomes one attained to understanding, the sixth type.
The sutta and Abhidhamma again differ as to emphasis, the one stressing
lack of the immaterial jhanas, the other the ariyan stature. Presumably,
he may have any of the four fine-material jhanas or be a bare-insight
practitioner without any mundane jhana.

[6] The one attained to understanding is a noble
disciple at the six intermediate levels who lacks the immaterial jhanas
and has a predominance of the wisdom faculty. The Buddha explains:

And what person, monks, is the one attained to understanding? Herein,
monks someone has not reached with his own mental body those peaceful
immaterial deliverances transcending material form, but having seen with
wisdom some of his cankers are destroyed, and the teachings proclaimed
by the Tathagata have been seen and verified by him with wisdom. This
person, monks, is called the one attained to understanding. (M.i,478)

The Puggalapaññatti (p.185) defines the one attained to
understanding as a person who understands the Four Noble Truths, has
seen and verified by means of wisdom the teachings proclaimed by the
Tathagata, and having seen with wisdom has eliminated some of his
cankers. He is thus the “wisdom counterpart” of the one liberated by
faith, but progresses more easily than the latter by virtue of his
sharper wisdom. Like his counterpart, he may possess any of the four
mundane jhanas or may be a dry-insight worker.

[7] The one liberated by wisdom is an arahant who does not obtain the immaterial attainments. In the words of the sutta:

And what person, monks, is the one liberated by wisdom? Herein, monks,
someone has not reached with his own (mental) body those peaceful
material deliverances transcending material form, but having seen with
wisdom his cankers are destroyed. This person, monks, is called one
liberated by wisdom. (M.i,477-78)

The Puggalapaññatti’s definition (p.185) merely replaces
“immaterial deliverance” with “the eight deliverances.” Though such
arahats do not reach the immaterial jhanas it is quite possible for them
to attain the lower jhanas. The sutta commentary in fact states that
the one liberated by wisdom is fivefold by way of the dry-insight worker
and the four who attain arahatship after emerging from the four jhanas.

It should be noted that the one liberated by wisdom is contrasted not
with the one liberated by faith, but with the one liberated in both
ways. The issue that divides the two types of arahant is the lack or
possession of the four immaterial jhanas and the attainment of
cessation. The person liberated by faith is found at the six
intermediate levels of sanctity, not at the level of arahatship. When he
obtains arahatship, lacking the immaterial jhanas, he becomes one
liberated by wisdom even though faith rather that wisdom is his
predominant faculty. Similarly, a meditator with predominance of
concentration who possesses the immaterial attainments will still be
liberated in both ways even if wisdom rather than concentration claims
first place among his spiritual endowments, as was the case with the
venerable Sariputta.

Jhana and the Arahant  

From the standpoint of their spiritual stature the seven types of
noble persons can be divided into three categories. The first, which
includes the faith-devotee and the truth-devotee, consists of those on
the path of stream-entry, the first of the eight noble individuals. The
second category, comprising the one liberated by faith, the body-witness
and the one attained to understanding, consists of those on the six
intermediate levels, from the stream-enterer to one on the path of
arahatship. The third category, comprising the one liberated in both
ways and the one liberated by wisdom, consists only of arahats.[30]

The ubhatobhagavimutta, “one liberated in both ways,” and the paññavimutta
“one liberated by wisdom,” thus form the terms of a twofold typology of
arahats distinguished on the basis of their accomplishment in jhana.
The ubhatobhagavimutta arahant experiences in his own person the “peaceful deliverances” of the immaterial sphere, the paññavimutta
arahant lacks this full experience of the immaterial jhanas. Each of
these two types, according to the commentaries, again becomes fivefold —
the ubhatobhagavimutta by way of those who possess the ascending four immaterial jhanas and the attainment of cessation, the paññavimutta
by way of those who reach arahatship after emerging from one of the
four fine-material jhanas and the dry-insight meditator whose insight
lacks the support of mundane jhana.

The possibility of attaining the supramundane path without possession
of a mundane jhana has been questioned by some Theravada scholars, but
the Visuddhimagga clearly admits this possibility when it
distinguishes between the path arisen in a dry-insight meditator and the
path arisen in one who possesses a jhana but does not use it as a basis
for insight (Vism.666-67; PP.779). Textual evidence that there can be
arahats lacking mundane jhana is provided by the Susima Sutta (S.ii,
199-23) together with is commentaries. When the monks in the sutta are
asked how they can be arahats without possessing supernormal powers of
the immaterial attainments, they reply: “We are liberated by wisdom” (paññavimutta kho mayam). The commentary glosses this reply thus: “We are contemplatives, dry-insight meditators, liberated by wisdom alone” (Mayam nijjhanaka sukkhavipassaka paññamatten’eva vimutta ti,
SA.ii,117). The commentary also states that the Buddha gave his long
disquisition on insight in the sutta “to show the arising of knowledge
even without concentration” (vina pi samadhimevam nanuppattidassanattham,
SA.ii,117). The subcommentary establishes the point by explaining “even
without concentration” to mean “even without concentration previously
accomplished reaching the mark of serenity” (samathalakkhanappattam purimasiddhamvina pi samadhin ti), adding that this is said in reference to one who makes insight his vehicle (ST.ii,125).

In contrast to the paññavimutta arahats, those arahats who are ubhatobhagavimutta enjoy a twofold liberation. Through their mastery over the formless attainments they are liberated from the material body (rupakaya),
capable of dwelling in this very life in the meditations corresponding
to the immaterial planes of existence; through their attainment of
arahatship they are liberated from the mental body (namakaya), presently free from all defilements and sure of final emancipation from future becoming. Paññavimutta arahats only possess the second of these two liberations.

The double liberation of the ubhatobhagavimutta arahant should
not be confused with another double liberation frequently mentioned in
the suttas in connection with arahatship. This second pair of
liberations, called cetovimutti paññavimutti, “liberation of
mind, liberation by wisdom,” is shared by all arahats. It appears in the
stock passage descriptive of arahatship: “With the destruction of the
cankers he here and now enters and dwells in the cankerless liberation
of mind, liberation by wisdom, having realized it for himself with
direct knowledge.” That this twofold liberation belongs to paññavimutta
arahats as well as those who are ubhatobhagavimutta is made clear by
the Putta Sutta, where the stock passage is used for two types of
arahats called the “white lotus recluse” and the “red lotus recluse”:

How, monks, is a person a white lotus recluse (samanapundarika)?
Here, monks, with the destruction of the cankers a monk here and now
enters and dwells in the cankerless liberation of mind, liberation by
wisdom, having realized it for himself with direct knowledge. Yet he
does not dwell experiencing the eight deliverances with his body. Thus,
monks, a person is a white lotus recluse.

And how, monks, is a person a red lotus recluse (samanapaduma)?
Here, monks, with the destruction of the cankers a monk here and now
enters and dwells in the cankerless liberation of mind, liberation by
wisdom, having realized it for himself with direct knowledge. And he
dwells experiencing the eight deliverances with his body. Thus, monks, a
person is a red lotus recluse. (A.ii,87)

Since the description of these two types coincides with that of paññavimutta and ubhatobhagavimutta the two pairs may be identified, the white lotus recluse with the paññavimutta, the red lotus recluse with the ubhatobhagavimutta. Yet the paññavimutta arahant, while lacking the experience of the eight deliverances, still has both liberation of mind and liberation by wisdom.

When liberation of mind and liberation by wisdom are joined together and described as “cankerless” (anasava),
they can be taken to indicate two aspects of the arahant’s deliverance.
Liberation of mind signifies the release of his mind from craving and
its associated defilements, liberation by wisdom the release from
ignorance: “With the fading away of lust there is liberation of mind,
with the fading away of ignorance there is liberation by wisdom”
(A.i,61). “As he sees and understands thus his mind is liberated from
the canker of sensual desire, from the canker of existence, from the
canker of ignorance” (M.i,183-84) — here release from the first two
cankers can be understood as liberation of mind, release from the canker
of ignorance as liberation by wisdom. In the commentaries “liberation
of mind” is identified with the concentration factor in the fruition
attainment of arahatship, “liberation by wisdom” with the wisdom factor.

Since every arahant reaches arahatship through the Noble Eightfold
Path, he must have attained supramundane jhana in the form of right
concentration, the eighth factor of the path, defined as the four
jhanas. This jhana remains with him as the concentration of the fruition
attainment of arahatship, which occurs at the level of supramundane
jhana corresponding to that of his path. Thus he always stands in
possession of at least the supramundane jhana of fruition, called the
“cankerless liberation of mind.” However, this consideration does not
reflect back on his mundane attainments, requiring that every arahant
possess mundane jhana.

Although early Buddhism acknowledges the possibility of a
dry-visioned arahatship, the attitude prevails that jhanas are still
desirable attributes in an arahant. They are of value not only prior to
final attainment, as a foundation for insight, but retain their value
even afterwards. The value of jhana in the stage of arahatship, when all
spiritual training has been completed, is twofold. One concerns the
arahant’s inner experience, the other his outer significance as a
representative of the Buddha’s dispensation.

On the side of inner experience the jhanas are valued as providing the arahant with a “blissful dwelling here and now” (ditthadhammasukhavihara).
The suttas often show arahats attaining to jhana and the Buddha himself
declares the four jhanas to be figuratively a kind of Nibbana in this
present life (A.iv.453-54). With respect to levels and factors there is
no difference between the mundane jhanas of an arahant and those of a
non-arahant. The difference concerns their function. For non-arahats the
mundane jhanas constitute wholesome kamma; they are deeds with a
potential to produce results, to precipitate rebirth in a corresponding
realm of existence. But in the case of an arahant mundane jhana no
longer generates kamma. Since he has eradicated ignorance and craving,
the roots of kamma, his actions leave no residue; they have no capacity
to generate results. For him the jhanic consciousness is a mere
functional consciousness which comes and goes and once gone disappears
without a trace.

The value of the jhanas, however, extends beyond the confines of the
arahant’s personal experience to testify to the spiritual efficacy of
the Buddha’s dispensation. The jhanas are regarded as ornamentations of
the arahant, testimonies to the accomplishment of the spiritually
perfect person and the effectiveness of the teaching he follows. A
worthy monk is able to “gain at will without trouble or difficulty, the
four jhanas pertaining to the higher consciousness, blissful dwellings
here and now.” This ability to gain the jhanas at will is a “quality
that makes a monk an elder.” When accompanied by several other spiritual
accomplishments it is an essential quality of “a recluse who graces
recluses” and of a monk who can move unobstructed in the four
directions. Having ready access to the four jhanas makes an elder dear
and agreeable, respected and esteemed by his fellow monks. Facility in
gaining the jhanas is one of the eight qualities of a completely
inspiring monk (samantapasadika bhikkhu) perfect in all respects; it is also one of the eleven foundations of faith (saddha pada).
It is significant that in all these lists of qualities the last item is
always the attainment of arahatship, “the cankerless liberation of
mind, liberation by wisdom,” showing that all desirable qualities in a
bhikkhu culminate in arahatship.[31]

The higher the degree of his mastery over the meditative attainments,
the higher the esteem in which an arahant monk is held and the more
praiseworthy his achievement is considered. Thus the Buddha says of the ubhatobhagavimutta arahant: “There is no liberation in both ways higher and more excellent than this liberation in both ways”(D.ii,71).

The highest respect goes to those monks who possess not only
liberation in both ways but the six abhiññas or “super-knowledges”: the
exercise of psychic powers, the divine ear, the ability to read the
minds of others, the recollection of past lives, knowledge of the death
and rebirth of beings, and knowledge of final liberation. The Buddha
declares that a monk endowed with the six abhiññas, is worthy of
gifts and hospitality, worthy of offerings and reverential salutations, a
supreme field of merit for the world (A.iii,280-81). In the period
after the Buddha’s demise, what qualified a monk to give guidance to
others was endowment with ten qualities: moral virtue, learning,
contentment, mastery over the four jhanas, the five mundane abhiññas
and attainment of the cankerless liberation of mind, liberation by
wisdom (M.iii,11-12). Perhaps it was because he was extolled by the
Buddha for his facility in the meditative attainments and the abhiññas
that the venerable Mahakassapa assumed the presidency of the first
great Buddhist council held in Rajagaha after the Buddha’s passing away.

The graduation in the veneration given to arahats on the basis of
their mundane spiritual achievements implies something about the value
system of early Buddhism that is not often recognized. It suggests that
while final liberation may be the ultimate and most important value, it
is not the sole value even in the spiritual domain. Alongside it, as
embellishments rather than alternatives, stand mastery over the range of
the mind and mastery over the sphere of the knowable. The first is
accomplished by the attainment of the eight mundane jhanas, the second
by the attainment of the abhiññas. Together, final liberation
adorned with this twofold mastery is esteemed as the highest and most
desirable way of actualizing the ultimate goal.

About the Author  

Mahathera Henepola Gunaratana was ordained as a Buddhist monk in
Kandy, Sri Lanka, in 1947 and received his education at Vidyalankara
College and Buddhist Missionary College, Colombo. He worked for five
years as a Buddhist missionary among the Harijans (Untouchables) in
India and for ten years with the Buddhist Missionary Society in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia. In 1968 he came to the United States to serve as
general secretary of the Buddhist Vihara Society at the Washington
Buddhist Vihara. In 1980 he was appointed president of the Society. He
has received a Ph.D. from The American University and since 1973 has
been Buddhist Chaplain at The American University. He is now director of
the Bhavana Meditation Center in West Virginia in the Shenandoah
Valley, about 100 miles from Washington, D.C.

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18. List and explain Arupavacara vipaka citta (10 M)
19. List and explain Arupavacara kiria citta (10 M)
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21. List and explain Lokutara  phala citta (10 M)
22. What is Jhana ? List and explain Jhana factors and nivaranaas (10 M)

Boonyawad at Bangkok Thailand was visited by Venerable Sukadananda,
Alok Bhantes , Upasakas Kumar, Ramesh Babu, Hanumantaraya and
Jagatheesan Chandrasekharan to bring Buddha’s Relics to Maha Bodhi
Society and handed over to Most Venerable Ananda Bhante Ji on 10-12-2018
at Bengaluru Airport

เสียงพระธรรมเทศนา พระอาจารย์อัครเดช (ตั๋น) ถิรจิตโต ในงานถวายผ้ากฐิน ปี ๒๕๖๐ ณ วัดบุญญาวาส อ.บ่อทอง…

Wat Boonyawad

List and explain Arupavacara kusala citta (10 M)
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